Microsoft Bans Face-Recognition Sales to Police as Big Tech Reacts to Protests

Microsoft has develop into the third massive tech firm this week to say it will not promote its facial recognition software program to police, following comparable strikes by Amazon and IBM.

Microsoft’s president and chief counsel, Brad Smith, introduced the choice and referred to as on Congress to regulate the know-how throughout a Washington Post video event on Thursday.

The trio of tech giants is stepping again from law-enforcement use of methods which have confronted criticism for incorrectly figuring out individuals with darker pores and skin. Ongoing protests following the demise of George Floyd have centered consideration on racial injustice within the US and the way police use know-how to observe individuals.

But whereas all three firms are recognized for his or her work in creating artificial intelligence, together with face recognition software program, none is a significant participant in promoting such know-how to police. Smith mentioned Thursday that Microsoft at the moment does not promote its face recognition software program to any US police departments. He did not say if that features federal legislation enforcement businesses or police forces outdoors the US.

Several different firms which can be much less well-known dominate the marketplace for authorities facial recognition contracts within the US, together with Tokyo-based NEC and the European firms Idemia and Gemalto.

Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM are calling on Congress to set nationwide guidelines over how police use facial recognition — one thing that is now being thought of as a part of a police reform bundle sparked by the protests following Floyd’s demise.

“If all of the responsible companies in the country cede this market to those that are not prepared to take a stand, we won’t necessarily serve the national interest or the lives of the black and African American people of this nation well,” Smith said. “We need Congress to act, not just tech companies alone.”

Microsoft has spent two years warning of the potential risks of face-scanning know-how being abused to allow oppressive mass surveillance, however the firm has opposed outright bans on authorities use of the know-how handed in San Francisco and different cities. That’s led to criticism from teams such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which says Microsoft is lobbying for weak laws that might find yourself legitimizing and increasing police use of facial recognition.

“Congress and legislatures nationwide must swiftly stop law enforcement use of face recognition, and companies like Microsoft should work with the civil rights community — not against it — to make that happen,” mentioned Matt Cagle, an lawyer with the ACLU of Northern California, in an announcement Thursday.

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