back to article IBM calls for US export bans on facial recognition tech including cameras and big iron

“Certain foreign governments” should not be allowed to access technology that would let them deploy facial recognition technology as a tool of mass surveillance, says IBM government and regulatory affairs veep Christopher A. Padilla. Big Blue’s opinion was expressed in a Friday submission [PDF] to an inquiry being conducted by …

  1. GruntyMcPugh

    Given facial recognistion technology isn't mature, and performs really poorly, isn't this proposed ban just lip service? It's a rather convenient way to bow out of the arena, claim it's for human rights reasons (not that high tech companies have great reputations there) when really it's probably more about not seeing a return on the investment.

    1. veti Silver badge

      It's not as if Chinese and Russian programmers aren't perfectly capable of developing tech at least as good as anything the Americans have come up with in this field.

      I suspect it's an attempt to close down a market in which IBM doesn't rate its own performance.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      China already has the best facial recognition software. Yes, it isn't perfect: it can be fooled by many of the usual techniques ("kitten, not kitten") and there have been some highly publicised SNAFUs. But it is also validated by its near ubiquitous use every day throughout China. You don't need advanced silicon for this kind of thing, just suffiicient training data and time.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      IBM already bowed out of facial recog in June (see linked article) when it said so in a letter to several senators.

      What IBM is doing now is simply doubling down on the act and going for the full package : no facial recog anywhere, until proper laws have been put in place ensuring the respect of privacy and proper identification of miscreants.

      I think IBM is right on one point : technology has, in this case, clearly exceeded what the law can handle and the law needs to be updated.

      That said, I agree that the fact that IBM is calling for a ban is simply because IBM's facial recog was never any good, so IBM is likely trying to peg the market to give it time to catch up.

      Because IBM stated that it was no longer offering general facial recog solutions, it never said it wasn't working on them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The east is light years ahead of us in this technology and already have it in widespread use, all without any IBM gear. Maybe a ban will give IBM time to catch up at which point I am sure they will argue for lifting it.

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Playing the good guy?

    "This new call for a ban on exports therefore won’t hurt its software business"

    Playing the good guy in public while ruthlessly sacking its experienced staffers in private. And at no loss to the bottom line in either case.

  4. ForthIsNotDead

    ‘Certain foreign governments’ can’t be allowed to conduct mass surveillance.

    But others can. Right. Got it.

    1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      “Certain foreign governments” don’t need US technology to do it.

  5. Spanners Silver badge

    "Certain foreign governments"

    I can think of very few governments foreign or domestic that should be allowed to. Unfortunately, most of the ones that really shouldn't already do and are not allowing things like freedom, justice or decency to stop them.

  6. GreyWolf

    Yeah right

    IBM wants to ban exports of hi-res cameras that are good enough for face recognition....

    I have to ask, is the USA even capable of making such cameras? In which case the ban is completely pointless, just another bit of virtue theatre...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah right

      Don't ban exporting the camera, ban that clever 'zoom and enhance' filter that lets you zoom in using a sub VGA black and white camera and read the baddies secret plans that every agency always uses.

    2. RM Myers Silver badge

      Re: Yeah right

      Yes, the USA is capable of producing such cameras, and so are a number of other countries. Take a look at some of the satellite photos available online, and then realize these aren't even the good ones - those are military only. There are some truly brilliant people doing research in optics, and the result has been some amazing progress in high resolution cameras. But like most areas of technology, progress doesn't guarantee the use will be benign.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waht waht waht

    Did the Grinch's heart just grow three sizes this day?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Were those governments going to use it to prove that IBM discriminated againts older employees?

  9. HildyJ Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Big Blue

    There are any number of reasons to bash IBM but this is not one of them.

    The reason for this submission may be self serving, the mechanism for enforcement may be problematic, but the substance is better than the status quo.

    1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Big Blue

      Empty virtue signalling is worse than doing nothing.

  10. Gorthmol The Destroyer

    Don't be fooled

    If IBM backs away from a market, it's usually because its failing at it. Don't let the protestations of moral underpinnings distract you.

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