The move comes amid protests against police violence and discrimination, and shortly after the facial recognition of Clearview AI raised issues of confidentiality and bias. More than one report has indicated that facial recognition systems may be biased against non-whites and women, particularly if the training data include relatively few people from these groups. And although some facial recognition systems can only correlate faces with publicly available data, there is concern that it could be used for tracking and generating profiles that could be used to intimidate people or otherwise limit their lives private.
As CNBC noted, it is relatively easy for IBM to back off when facial recognition was not a major contributor to its results. The media buzz can be as big as anything. IBM is still a large company, however, and it frequently works with governments. This could encourage other providers to follow suit, and could even lead some potential customers to completely abandon facial recognition.