“Only good AI from now on,” promises Google as it swears off facial recognition

Google, taken to task by employees this year for participating in a US military project on computer vision in drones, has committed to not build general-purpose facial recognition APIs.

The aspiring cloud provider and originator of TensorFlow said its decision was being guided by a commitment to deliver “responsible AI.”

Google made the announcement while committing to a grant to the newly formed Asia Pacific for Social Good Research Network from a company investment pool of $25m.

In a blog post, here, Google wrote:

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“Like many technologies with multiple uses, facial recognition merits careful consideration to ensure its use is aligned with our principles and values, and avoids abuse and harmful outcomes.

“We continue to work with many organisations to identify and address these challenges, and unlike some other companies, Google Cloud has chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions.

“It’s up to all of us to ensure that AI is developed responsibly for social good. We hope that these partnerships will help us achieve that in Asia Pacific.”

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed Google’s decision and called on Amazon and Microsoft to also not provide government with face-surveillance AI. Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos has criticised Google’s decision to cede to its employees’ wishes.

In a statement ACLU California director Nicole Ozer called Google’s decision a “strong first step.”

“Google today demonstrated that, unlike other companies doubling down on efforts to put dangerous face surveillance technology into the hands of law enforcement and ICE, it has a moral compass and is willing to take action to protect its customers and communities.

“Companies have a responsibility to make sure their products can’t be used to attack communities and harm civil rights and liberties — it’s past time all companies own up to that responsibility.”

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