Cloud News

The 10 Biggest Cloud Computing News Stories Of 2020 (So Far)

Donna Goodison

CRN breaks down the top cloud news midway through the year—from coronavirus-fueled cloud spending to cloud leaders decrying racial injustice to the explosion of cloud-based videoconferencing.

5. Facial Recognition Technology Bans For Police

Technology companies adjusted their stances on the use of facial recognition technology by police in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody in May. The 46-year-old Black man died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for over nine minutes during his arrest, touching off Black Lives Matter protests and calls for reform across the country and globally.

Earlier this month, in a letter to Congress on racial injustice reform, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said the company no longer offered general-purpose facial recognition or analysis software.

“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,” Krishna wrote. “We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies. Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool that can help law enforcement keep citizens safe. But vendors and users of Al systems have a shared responsibility to ensure that Al is tested for bias, particularity when used in law enforcement, and that such bias testing is audited and reported.”

AWS this month instituted a one-year ban that prevents police from using its Amazon Rekognition image and video analysis tool, which was introduced in late 2016. AWS renewed its call for stronger federal governmental regulations for the ethical use of facial recognition technology to prevent a state-by-state piecemeal approach. CEO Andy Jassy previously had supported law enforcement’s use of the tool, saying AWS strongly recommends that results not be used unless they are backed by at least 99 percent confidence levels and then only as “one piece of a human-driven decision like any other piece of evidence.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft this month said it would not sell its facial recognition technology to police until federal regulations “grounded in human rights” are enacted. The tech giant, which previously had not been selling the technology to U.S. police, told CRN that “for the past two years, we have been focused on developing and implementing strong principles that govern our use of facial recognition, and we’ve been calling for strong government regulation.”

“We’re committed to working with others to advocate for the legislation that is needed,” the company said in a statement. “We’re also taking this opportunity to further strengthen our review processes for any customer seeking to use this technology at scale."

In March, Microsoft President Brad Smith had blogged that “the risk of bias is real” in using facial recognition technology and hailed new state of Washington legislation enacting specific legal controls “while regulating the risks inherent in the technology.”

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