Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Facial recognition at Dulles Airport. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty

IBM, one of several Big Tech companies selling facial recognition programs, is calling on Congress to regulate the technology — but not too much.

Why it matters: China has built a repressive surveillance apparatus with facial recognition; now, some U.S. cities are rolling it out for law enforcement. But tech companies worry that opponents will react to these developments by kiboshing the technology completely.

The big picture: IBM's proposal joins calls for federal facial recognition regulations from Microsoft, Amazon and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

  • Big Tech is threatened by a yearlong groundswell of bans and proposed restrictions on facial recognition bubbling up in cities like San Francisco and states like Massachusetts.
  • The companies say these moves would cut off beneficial uses of the technology, like speeding up airport security or finding missing children.
  • Yes, but: They stand to gain from keeping the market open.

What's happening: In a white paper shared first with Axios, IBM is calling for what it calls "precision regulation." That means limiting potentially harmful uses rather than forbidding use of the technology entirely.

  • IBM proposes treating various kinds of facial recognition differently. Face detection software, which simply counts the number of faces in the scene, is less prone to abuse than face matching, which can pick specific people out of a crowd.
  • "There will always be use cases that will be off-limits," IBM chief privacy officer Christina Montgomery tells Axios. "That includes mass surveillance and racial profiling."

At issue is public trust in facial recognition. Companies hope that curtailing some uses will rescue the technology from sliding into pariah status.

Details: IBM calls for three policies it says are ready to be implemented immediately.

  1. Requiring notice and consent for people subject to facial recognition authentication, such as in a workplace or on a social media platform.
  2. Implementing export controls that prevent the sale of facial matching technology — the kind police could use to pick wanted criminals out of a crowd.
  3. Mandating that law enforcement disclose facial recognition technology and publish regular transparency reports.

For big companies, overseas business interests can complicate matters.

  • In its white paper, IBM says companies "must be accountable for ensuring they don't facilitate human rights abuses by deploying technologies such as facial matching in regimes known for human rights violations."
  • Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News reported that IBM was among several companies marketing facial recognition in the notoriously repressive United Arab Emirates.
  • IBM says the technology referenced in the BuzzFeed story cannot identify individuals based on their faces. That is, it's not facial matching software.

What they're saying:

  • "We're responsible stewards of technology," Montgomery tells Axios. "We vet client engagements at the highest levels of the company."
  • “If adopted, IBM’s proposal would clear the way for the deployment of this authoritarian technology in our communities, a move opposed by the public, AI experts and democratically elected legislatures across the United States," says Matt Cagle of the ACLU of Northern California.

Go deeper

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Biden says $1,400 stimulus payments can start going out this month

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Biden said Saturday that the Senate passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package means the $1,400 direct payments for most Americans can begin going out later this month.

Driving the news: The Senate voted 50-49 Saturday to approve the sweeping legislation. The House is expected to pass the Senate's version of the bill next week before it heads to Biden's desk for his signature.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!