Terry Yokum, Wall Street Journal, Jared Council discussed on WSJ Tech News Briefing
We've seen. The biggest company is making changes in response to protest over the killing of George Floyd. They've announced massive donations to racial justice. Initiatives held town halls in their own companies and introduce new diversity and inclusion policies among those commitments Microsoft Amazon. IBM and others have said they're no longer selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement, and they've called on Congress to institute national regulations to govern its use. But I reporter. Jerry Council says that might not spell. The end of police use official recognition tech, and he joins us now to explain jared thanks so much for being with us. Forever Man. All right, let's from the beginning. How does law enforcement use facial recognition technology right now? Why is it so controversial so I'll start with the second part I this. This technology has been around for years, and it's not just us by law enforcement. It's used in airports and retail establishments stadiums on and so forth, but the reason it's so controversial is there's really two reasons one has to do with the accuracy of these systems you know these systems for the most part have a tougher time identifying darker skinned people and women than they do. <hes> white males. Males essentially the other reason has to do with privacy. Even if these systems are ninety nine point nine percent accurate, some people were concerned that they're being used to survey them and to uncover information about them. That otherwise may not have been known so those are those are the two reasons why this technology is so controversial I'd say in recent years a lot of law enforcement agencies have turned to this technology to help with investigations, so if someone commits a robbery or crime in public somewhere in there are cameras that got footage of the perpetrator, then they. They would use the technology to essentially take an image of person and compared with the database of suspects that they have to essentially fight crime. Right and we've obviously had that going on for a long time. We have cameras that pick people up. And then they go through databases of potential suspects people that have committed crimes in the past, and they try to match those faces. How is this technology different from that kind of eyewitness matching <hes> in the lineup? Yeah, yeah, yeah, so technology allows it that process to happen a lot quicker so if you are. are able to get a again. An image of someone <hes> you can just run it through a database of of suspects and get results in minutes. The other aspect about the technology is that it's also being used to not just search databases, but the really the entire Internet there's a there's a company out there called clearview that sees itself as a as a search engine for faces, so if the police were using this technology upload of face of it could be a suspect, or it could even be a witness to a crime, they can essentially find. Find out who that person is based on social media, posed and other upload, so that's new and different about it, the the risk of the technology and again this is one of the main reasons. It's come under such criticism in recent years is that let's say a law. Enforcement agencies is using it, and they are trying to figure out the suspect Hula suspect is a in a robbery or some other crime. They use technology and IT pulls up potential matches for that suspect if it's not accurate if it's not if it doesn't do well at making those. Those matches for for faces that are that are darker, skinned or for women. There's a chance that police go after the wrong person, and it even goes beyond that it's not just the police agencies that use it, but there are stadiums I'd use it, you know. Retailers say we don't want this person who has been accused of shoplifting before to come back into our stores. You know if these technologies send an alert that says hey, you know, look out for this person. He or she is on our watch list and ends up being a wrong person you. You know that could that could cause a lot of headache in a lot of you know undue harm for whoever the whoever that person is. Each spoke about clear view and the work that they do. We've now seeing big companies that are are household names. Amazon Microsoft IBM come out and say that they are not going to allow police forces to Hughes facial recognition technology anymore at least for a moratorium at least for a time <hes> your reporting seems indicate that might make a big difference in terms of police use of facial recognition technology. Why is that? That yeah, yeah, the big players from Amazon. Microsoft of IBM they all announced that they're pulling back from the market. The only thing about it is is that they're big names in the facial recognition market, but they're not the biggest players per se and the market is made up of other companies including a whole range of startups that focus on this technology, so with the big tech players pulling back. There are still going to be other providers out there. That are selling this technology to police departments. They have no plans to pullback. They see this as. Their bread and butter. If you will you know despite some of the concerns around the technology, they feel that their technology. Does a lot of good. They say that it helps with investigations to find suspects quicker than otherwise might be possible. They also say that their technology is is used to help. Find Missing exploited children. A lot of them do want regulations, but they don't see any reason. Pull back right now because they feel that their services are are essential, and that there is still a market for it, so Microsoft an Amazon are calling on Congress to develop clear national laws about who can use facial recognition technology and how they're using it. Is there any kind of legislation already in the pipeline? So at the federal level, not so much. Last week the House of Representatives introduced a police reform bill that provides or at least touches on a lot of aspects of policing the country, but there was a mentioned in there about facial recognition, and essentially said federal law enforcement officers think you know FBI, and so on and so forth they had. They're not allowed to use facial recognition software on body camera footage without. Without a judge's warrant again that bill was not all about facial recognition. It was just a small part of it, but that's all. That's taking place at the federal level, and there are initiatives around the country and states and municipalities. Some them have sought to ban or put a moratorium on the technology by police agencies. At least for the time being, there have been other. Bills including one in Washington. That seek to regulate the use of the technology, so there's there's really kind of efforts happening across the country in various fashions, but at the at the federal level there hasn't been anything there and just add to that I think that actually was was part of the reason why a lot of these these large companies from Microsoft and Amazon why they why they took A. A step back. They saw the recent police reform bill and say hey, y'all congress. If you're looking at doing something, we're going to wait for you to address the whole issue. You know instead back until then as we wait for legislation on facial recognition software specifically, we're also hearing calls to defend the police. Is that something that could have an impact on this market? Oh Yeah for sure. Yeah, we we. We are seeing a lot of those calls which again just to be clear about not eliminating police departments. At least that's not what everyone wants. It's more so diverting resources and funds away from policing in changing how it operates as those calls and increase obviously in the wake of the George Floyd protests. A lot of police departments may be forced to look at what they're spending their money on, and some of the most controversial elements of what they're spending. Their money on could be the first to go, so you know. I spoke to a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard, and she mentioned that these protests are really putting a lot of public pressure on police departments, and some of them, not all of them, but some of them may say this is just not worth it right now, you know. Know where we're going to wait and step back until there are rules of the road for how to use this technology so again. This is by no means to say that police are still going to be interested in it. They're there still are a lot of them are still using it a lot of facial recognition companies still have business in the US. But some believe that that that these calls the defunding police could change that calculation. Our reporter jared. Council thanks so much for joining us right, thank you.