Civil Rights Advocates Urge Ethical Review of Axon’s Police Technologies

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Today, Media Alliance joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Upturn, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology and 37 leading civil rights, racial justice and community organizations sharing a series of recommendations with the “artificial intelligence (AI) ethics board” launched this morning by Axon, a major U.S. police technology vendor.

In a letter  to the board, the groups note that the nation’s criminal legal system is already plagued by a documented history of racial discrimination and other abuses and point out that advanced technology could make these problems worse. The groups urge the board to hold the company to its ethical responsibilities, and “to ensure that its present and future products, including AI-based products, don’t drive unfair or unethical outcomes or amplify racial inequities in policing.”

The groups express serious concerns about the direction of Axon’s product development, including the possible integration of real-time face recognition with body-worn camera systems. The letter states that this would be “categorically unethical to deploy,” asserting, “Axon must not offer or enable this feature.” The letter also calls on the ethics board to center the voices and perspectives of those most impacted by Axon’s technologies in its review process. “[A]n ethics process that does not center the voices of those who live in the most heavily policed communities will have no legitimacy,” say the groups.

Axon AI Ethics Board Letter FINAL

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