Microsoft President Brad Smith announced in a livestreamed conversation with the
[https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/11/microsoft-facial-recognition/] Thursday that the company does not, and would not, sell facial recognition
technology to police departments.
There is, of course, a qualification: Microsoft will not sell facial recognition
tech to police until Congress passes regulations around use of the technology to
protect human rights.
?We will not sell facial-recognition technology to police departments in the
United States until we have a national law in place, grounded in human rights,
that will govern this technology,? Smith said.
Microsoft?s announcement follows similar statements fromAmazonandIBM. Amazon
said it would put a one-year moratorium on selling its Rekognition software to
police departments, in order to allow Congress time to pass legislation
governing the use of its tech. However, the announcement was light on specifics.
The company did not provide information on what?s happening with its existing
partnerships with police departments, which it has?vehemently defended?as just
and responsible in the past.
> Microsoft president @BradSmi [https://twitter.com/BradSmi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw]
says the company does not sell facial recognition software to police depts. in
the U.S. today and will not sell the tools to police until there is a national
law in place ?grounded in human rights.? #postlive
[https://twitter.com/hashtag/postlive?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw] pic.twitter.com/lwxBLjrtZL [https://t.co/lwxBLjrtZL]
? Washington Post Live (@postlive) June 11, 2020
[https://twitter.com/postlive/status/1271116509625020417?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw] IBM, on the other hand, committed to getting out of the facial recognition game
altogether, pointing out the?inherent bias against minorities?often built into
these systems, and the tech?s potential to impinge on civil liberties.
Microsoft?s stance seems to fall somewhere in the middle. Unlike Amazon, it says
it doesn?t already sell the tech to police departments. It also specifically
calls for regulations ?grounded in human rights.? However, unlike IBM, it is
still invested in the business of tracking our faces.
States and cities have started regulating facial recognition, and Congress?began
working on?some bipartisan legislation in January, although the legislation
hasn?t surfaced since. A?February 2020 report?indicated that some Republicans
were supporting the tech, particularly its adoption by departments like Homeland
MicrosoftandAmazonhave previously called on Congress to regulate facial
recognition. However, tech has a?long history?of supporting some regulation in
order to avoid harsher regulation in the future.
The debate around facial recognition has come to the forefront after weeks of
protests against the police killing of George Floyd and systemic racism in
policing. The moves by tech to limit the surveillance tools it gives to police
is one way of showing support for the movement. Building racial equality?in tech
itself?would be another.