Although not specifically focused on this technology, Triodos already applies human rights due diligence requirements on companies in line with the Investor Statement. Triodos currently does not invest in the largest users and producers of this technology, but all companies in relevant industries must meet due diligence requirements on human rights protection.  

Facial Recognition (FR) technology captures, analyzes and compares patterns based on a person’s facial details in order to identify or verify his or her identity. This technology can be helpful, for example with identifying people after a criminal offence. FR systems are mainly used for security and law enforcement purposes, but the range of applications is expanding rapidly, including areas such as medicine and marketing. FR is easily accessible, fast, automatic, and seamless, making it appealing to organizations around the world looking for increased security and improved efficiency. The technology is used virtually worldwide, and it is estimated that by 2022 the facial recognition market will be USD 9.6 billion.  

However, Facial Recognition can threaten people’s - and especially minorities’ - human rights. The risks associated with FR technology include  racial and gender biases in the systems algorithms, questionable accuracy and lack of public testing of most systems in use, possible privacy or legal violations, and the potential misuse made by governments, law enforcement agencies or others. For instance, facial recognition technology can amplify racially discriminatory policing and threatens the right to protest, if used as a tool of mass surveillance. 

Triodos IM decided to add its voice to this statement for several reasons:

  • It is a clear call for awareness of the challenges of Facial Recognition. We believe companies need to demonstrate proactivity in protecting human rights because technological innovation here is outpacing legal developments to protect human rights.
  • FR technologies are currently found to embed significant biases and can represent a threat to privacy and a source of discrimination that can lead to broader human rights violations. Triodos is concerned about these matters, and through this investor statement wants to restate its commitment to human rights protection and to remain alert of risks related to technology deployment. 
  • The statement reflects and emphasizes Triodos’ already existing minimum standards and engagement in relation to human rights. Triodos does not invest in companies that would use facial recognition technology for the wrong reasons or would sell it to clients that may use it in violation of freedom laws and basic human rights, for example repressive regimes.  We actively ask companies to demonstrate human rights due diligence in relation to their activities. Companies that cannot demonstrate sound practices are excluded from investments. 
  • Triodos already engages with companies in its portfolio on the implementation of human rights and labour rights due diligence. Where relevant, Triodos will add the topic of facial recognition technology.

The statement calls on companies who use or sell Facial Recognition technology to demonstrate awareness of the challenges and to commit to:  

  • Disclose the accuracy of their technology after measurement by a recognised and relevant scientific assessment institution.
  • Disclose the source(s) of their image databases. Demonstrate that their technology is constantly monitored to detect algorithmic biases, particularly with respect to race, gender, or age.
  • Demonstrate proper due diligence of clients before making the technology available to them.
  • Demonstrate that effective grievance mechanisms are in place to enable victims to report consequences and to access remedies.

Read the full statement for more details.