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Friday, June 28, 2019

Axon (AAXN) rejects facial recognition software

Axon Enterprise Inc. says it is rejecting for the moment the possibility of selling facial recognition software, according to a report from NPR.

Scottsdale-based Axon (Nasdaq: AAXN) cited recommendations from an independent ethics board it created for its decision to forgo developing and selling the technology. Those recommendations highlight the fact that the technology is not advanced enough for law enforcement to rely on, according to NPR.

Facial recognition software was less reliable in identifying women and younger individuals. People of color also were harder for the technology to identify than white people, according to the report.

The ethics board also cited privacy concerns related to facial recognition, per NPR.
The board also cited privacy concerns which have long been raised by activists. "Even if face recognition works accurately and equitably—and we stress in detail that at present it does not—the technology makes it far easier for government entities to surveil citizens and potentially intrude into their lives," the report said.
Axon created the board after it acquired two artificial intelligence companies, according to NPR. Members of the board included experts in AI, privacy advocates, as well as computer scientists and other experts. While set up as an independent board, each member did receive a small honorarium from Axon for their work, reports NPR.

An Axon executive told NPR risks outweighed any benefit with facial software.
Mike Wagers, Axon vice president of emerging markets, tells NPR that the risks clearly outweighed the benefits. "We made the decision that just because you could deploy a certain technology does not make it right," he said. "You think about how this could play itself out on the streets," he added.
Earlier this year, Axon came under criticism after the Financial Times reported that the company had filed three patents for software with facial recognition capabilities, despite repeatedly claiming not to be working on the controversial technology.

Concerns of facial recognition software have grown over the years. Such concerns range from whether the technology could be used against lawful protestors to opening the door to mass surveillance around the country like it has in China.

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