Safe Face Pledge Launched to Prevent Abuse and Lethal Use of Facial Recognition Technology

Joy Buolamwini
Dec 11, 2018 · 3 min read
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Since publishing my MIT research findings on racial and gender bias in facial analysis technology sold by IBM, Microsoft, and Megvii (Face++), technology executives, startup founders, and senior scientists have solicited my help in improving their products and research projects.

I have intentionally focused my efforts on using conclusive research findings to call out issues with facial analysis technology instead of working on short- term technical patches that do not mitigate potential abuses. Still, there is a need for actionable critique which not only calls out problematic technology and processes but also provides alternative approaches that outline implementable practices that reduce real-world harm.

It is time to put principles into practice and extend recommendations into requirements.

To this end, the Center on Privacy & Technology and the Algorithmic Justice League are releasing the Safe Face Pledge aimed at mitigating the abuse and preventing the lethal use of facial analysis technology.

(Read Full Announcement)

The Safe Face Pledge is an opportunity for organizations to make public commitments towards mitigating the abuse of facial analysis technology. This historic pledge prohibits lethal use of the technology, lawless police use, and requires transparency in any government use. Among the most concerning uses of facial analysis technology involve the bolstering of mass surveillance, the weaponization of AI, and harmful discrimination in law enforcement contexts. The Safe Face Pledge provides actionable measurable steps organizations can take to follow AI ethics principles by making commitments to:

(See Full Pledge)


My motivation with starting this pledge, stems from struggling with how to use my research and storytelling platform to make meaningful change.

As I wrote to one company who asked for my help to improve the accuracy of their products this past summer:

“Given the dual nature use of facial analysis technology, I cannot proceed with helping improve systems that are then sold to entities that have historically weaponized technology against marginalized communities… [There need to be ]explicit and actionable steps taken to mitigate harms that stem not just from inaccuracies but also abuse. The two must be tackled in lockstep to truly create technology that not only works for all but benefits all, not just the privileged and powerful.

Without the kinds of commitments like those proposed in the Safe Face Pledge, I fear becoming complicit in the development of technology that ultimately harms people like me- the underserved majority who suffer most the adverse impacts of technology -even those meant to promote AI for social good.

As a researcher who sits at the intersection of privilege and oppression, I cannot tackle sociotechnical issues by only focusing on the technical portion of problems that reflect systemic oppression. How AI is used will ultimately reflect which lives we choose to value and which voices we choose to hear.

I invite individuals and organizations who support the steps outlined in the pledge to let companies know we are speaking out, watching closely, and demanding change.

The Safe Face Pledge provides developers of facial analysis technology with meaningful actions that protect human life, dignity, and rights. Robbie. AI, Simprints, and Yoti as launch signatory companies of the pledge are demonstrating there is another way to do business. Their peers should follow.

Visit to learn more and become a Safe Face Pledge supporter.


Forbes — End Technological Injustice! Make The Safe Face Pledge Today.

Bloomberg — Almost Everyone Involved in Facial Recognition Sees Problems

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