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IBM CEO Arvind Krishna. Photo: IBM

In a letter to members of Congress on Monday, IBM said it is exiting the general-purpose facial recognition business and said it opposes the use of such technology for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

Why it matters: Facial recognition software is controversial for a number of reasons, including the potential for human rights violations as well as evidence that the technology is less accurate in identifying people of color.

What he's saying: "IBM no longer offers general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software," CEO Arvind Krishna said in the letter. "IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency."

The big picture: An IBM representative told Axios that the decisions were made over a period of months and have been communicated with customers, though this is the first public mention of the decision. IBM said it will "no longer market, sell or update these products" but will support existing clients as needed.

What to watch: The letter also included Krishna's suggestions for legislation around police reform and the responsible use of technology. IBM said that AI, for example, has a role to play in law enforcement, but should be thoroughly vetted to make sure it doesn't contain bias. The company is also calling for stricter federal laws on police misconduct.

  • "Congress should bring more police misconduct cases under federal court purview and should make modifications to the qualified immunity doctrine that prevents individuals from seeking damages when police violate their constitutional rights," Krishna said.
  • "Congress should also establish a federal registry of police misconduct and adopt measures to encourage or compel states and localities to review and update use-of-force policies."

Go deeper

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

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