Microsoft Holds Off On Facial Recognition for Police

Microsoft joins rivals bars police use of face recognition tech

Microsoft joins rivals bars police use of face recognition tech

Microsoft President and Chief Counsel Brad Smith has reiterated the company's position on selling its facial recognition technology to law enforcement (LE) agencies.

Microsoft's announcement follows International Business Machines Corp's (IBM) decision on Monday to exit the facial recognition market, and Amazon's move on Wednesday to halt sales to police departments for one year. A push led by activist organizations has been calling for an outright government ban on the use of facial recognition for months.

Smith said the company would still have "review factors" to find other ways that facial recognition technology can be used, "that go beyond what we already have". The group's criteria are not public and Microsoft has declined to provide them, apart from a few examples of cases where it opted to turn down contracts.

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Speaking during a Post Live event, Smith said the company still refuses to sell its technology to LE. Given that, we've decided that we will not sell facial recognition to police departments in the United States until we have a national law in place ground in human rights that will govern this technology.

The significance of facial recognition software had increased after the death of George Floyd when an American police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. The former will no longer sell or develop the controversial technology, nor engage in any related research activities, while the latter has implemented a year-long moratorium on police use.

The decision from the three tech giants, who all chose to ban or pause the sales of facial recognition in the last few days, comes two weeks after the alleged murder of George Floyd.

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She says even if the problem of bias in the systems is ironed out, lawmakers will still need to confront some big questions about facial recognition: "It will change the very nature of power in our society, who has this technology?"

"The bottom line for us is to protect the human rights of people as this technology is deployed", Smith said, aligning the company with other tech giants such as IBM and Amazon, both of which have made similar pledges.

"We have been focused on this issue for two years", he replied.

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