Microsoft chief Brad Smith raises alarms about face recognition

Latest Technology and Gadgets at Mobile World Congress Shanghai

Latest Technology and Gadgets at Mobile World Congress Shanghai

Microsoft president Brad Smith has called on government to regulate facial recognition technology, citing concerns that it is open to abuse.

The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself.

Consider just one recent controversy: Amazon's sale of its facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies caused much anguish inside and outside the company. The company said its work with the agency is limited to mail, messaging and office work.

Furthermore, he doubles down on the company's commitment to work with guidelines set in the UN's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and concludes the post by assuring readers that it will participate in public policy deliberations pertinent to facial recognition until this technology is seen by people in the same light as the company sees it presently.

Smith wrote in his blog post that "While we appreciate that some people today are calling for tech companies to make these decisions - and we recognize a clear need for our own exercise of responsibility, as discussed further below - we believe this is an inadequate substitute for decision making by the public and its representatives in a democratic republic".

Microsoft has turned down some unspecified customer requests for use of its facial recognition technology when officials decided there were greater human rights risks, and it will continue to do so, Smith added.

Microsoft Corp., which has come under fire for a US government contract that was said to involve facial recognition software, said it will more carefully consider contracts in this area and urged lawmakers to regulate the use of such artificial intelligence to prevent abuse. Smith also advised caution when deploying facial recognition services.

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In a blog post published Friday, Microsoft President Brad Smith touted the potential benefits of facial recognition - like finding missing children and helping visually impaired people.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that Microsoft's announcement should serve as a wake-up call to Congress, whom they urged to "take immediate action to put the brakes on this technology". While that may be a convenience for some - for instance, powering Face Unlock on the iPhone X - it also brings the potential for unwanted surveillance and a loss of privacy. "But the real question is how the company would answer them. and what companies like Microsoft will say behind the scenes when legislation is actually being drafted and negotiated", Bedoya said.

- What types of legal measures can prevent use of facial recognition for racial profiling and other violations of rights while still permitting the beneficial uses of the technology?

Get Data Sheet, Fortune's technology newsletter. Microsoft said last month that it had trained its systems to more accurately recognize different skin colors.

Microsoft declined to comment beyond Smith's post. Google employees pressured the company to end its artificial-intelligence contract with the Pentagon, until the tech giant announced it would not renew the deal.

Facebook has also voiced interest in laws that would demand more transparency in online advertising, and its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill in April following Russian operatives' use of the social network as a way to potentially sway voters during the 2016 election.

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