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IBM loses institutional investor over biometrics sales to Israel

IBM loses institutional investor over biometrics sales to Israel

A major Norwegian assets management company Storebrand says it has got rid of its investments in US technology company IBM over the latter’s alleged support for Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians through its biometrics technology.

As reported by FriFagbevegelse.no, Storebrand disclosed in its financial sustainability report for the first quarter of 2024 that IBM’s biometrics software and hardware  were being used by Israel to carry out what it described as “apartheid.”

The contention, per the report, is that Israel’s border management system is run on IBM’s biometrics technology, which is said to be used to discriminate against Palestinians at Israel’s borders and in occupied Palestinian territories.

In a statement to FriFagbevegelse, Storebrand’s communications director, Stig-Øyvind Blystad, said it was the company’s conviction that the biometric database powered by IBM “contributes to discrimination and segregation of Palestinians.”

Storebrand said it sold all of its shares in IBM worth a reported £110 million (around US$ 139 million) in March after it said attempts to have a discussion with IBM on its worries met with unwillingness on the other side.

“As an investor, Storebrand Asset Management has tried to enter into a dialogue with IBM Corp about the matter, but the company has not been willing to discuss this,” Stig-Øyvind Blystad is quoted as stating.

Storebrand’s decision to divest from IBM has been hailed by some labour unions including the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) which has been vocal against institutions that contribute to Israel’s violation of or disregard for international law, especially in relation to Palestine.

Reacting to the situation, LO’s head of international department said as quoted: “Although IBM also conducts activities that are not related to illegal settlement activities, they still have a responsibility for what they do in this area.”

The publication says it did not get requested comments from IBM at the time of its reporting.

There have been concerns in the past about IBM’s facial recognition technology, pushing the company to put a ceiling in 2020 on the sale of its general purpose biometrics and to restrict the use of its technology for projects that involve mass surveillance or racial profiling.

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