9 June 2021 / Company

Asset managers unite in human rights pledge on facial recognition concerns

By ESG Clarity

Aviva, BMO GAM, Edentree and RLAM among signatories to Candriam initiative

Asset managers unite in human rights pledge on facial recognition concerns

Candriam has collaborated with 50 other global investment houses on facial recognition technology to increase engagement on human rights policies.

The European asset manager has welcomed fund groups including Aviva Investors, BMO Global Asset Management, Edentree Investment Management, EOS at Federated Hermes, Royal London Asset Management and NN Investment Partners as signatories to the Investor Statement on Facial Recognition.

The groups, representing more than $4.5trn in assets under management (AUM), have pledged their commitment to address the risks raised by facial recognition technology (FRT) products and services and engage with companies on their FRT activities and human rights policies.

Candriam highlighted FRT technolofy carries a risk of infringing on individual privacy rights “given it lacks the consent of those being identified and has no official oversight”. It added misidentification is far more frequent than is commonly known and occurs “more systematically among certain ethnic groups and has led to false arrests”.

The facial recognition market is a relatively small part of the overall tech sector but US and Chinese tech giants have developed facial recognition products and services for analysis if behavioural data and are now moving this into the physical world. This has sparked concerns around regulation and oversight and if this is being done in an ethical way.

Several US cities and states have banned FRT technology but there is no common framework around the regulation and collection of biometric data and its use. In Europe, however, the EU Commission is proposing the first ever legal framework on Artificial Intelligence Regulation.

Benjamin Chekroun, proxy voting and engagement analyst at Candriam, said: “Facial recognition technologies are changing our lives and have the potential to present reputational, operational, and financial risks for companies as well as significant human rights risks. It is encouraging that over 50 signatories, representing more than $4.5trn AUM, recognise their role in collectively, and collaboratively, engaging with companies to ensure this technology is being used in a responsible and lawful way.”

Representing Aviva Investors, senior ESG analyst Louise Piffaut added: “The increasing deployment and use of facial recognition technologies have human rights implications which are not fully being considered by companies. Investors have a role to play alongside regulators and independent experts to ensure that companies adopt best practice. With mounting evidence of the potential societal impacts the technology could have, notably around exacerbating biases and racial inequality, companies should disclose their processes and how they assess their human rights impacts in order to manage these risks.”

The full list of signatories is below:

Achmea Investment Management

Aequo

Assenagon Asset Management S.A.

Aviva Investors

BMO Global Asset Management

Boston Common Asset Management

Brown Advisory

Brunel Pension Partnership

CANDRIAM

Church of England Pensions Board

C-QUADRAT Asset Management GmbH

Dana Investment Advisors

Degroof Petercam Asset Management

DNB

Domini Impact Investments

EdenTree Investment Management

Ethos Foundation

EOS at Federated Hermes

Glasswing Ventures

GW&K Investment Management, LLC

Heartland Initiative

Indép’AM

ISGAM AG

JLens Investor Network

KLP

Local Authority Pension Fund Forum

Longfellow Investment Management Co LLC

Mercy Investment Services

Bon Secours Mercy Health

Congregation of St. Joseph

Common Spirit

Daughters of Charity

Providence St. Joseph Health

Future Super

Verve Super

NEI Investments

NN Investment Partners

NZ Super Annuation

Öhman

Presbyterian Foundation

Royal London Asset Management

Share

Summit Global Investments

Sycomore Asset Management

Le Regroupement pour la Responsabilité Sociale des Entreprises

Trillium Asset Management

Triodos Investment Management

Vancity Investment Management

Storebrand Asset Management

RPMI Railpen

Part of the Bonhill Group.