Microsoft Urges US Government to Regulate Facial Recognition Technology

CC0 / Pixabay / Facial recognition
Facial recognition - Sputnik International
In a July 13 blog post, Microsoft president Brad Smith brazenly called on the US government to regulate face-recognition technology, claiming that the technology comes with too many risks.

"Facial-recognition technology raises issues that go to the heart of fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression," Smith wrote in the blog post. 

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"The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself. And if there are concerns about how a technology will be deployed more broadly across society, the only way to regulate this broad use is for the government to do so," he added, suggesting that both the public and private sectors work to develop "norms around acceptable uses" of the technology.

"In a democratic republic, there is no substitute for decision making by our elected representatives regarding the issues that require the balancing of public safety with the essence of our democratic freedoms," Smith wrote. "Facial recognition will require the public and private sectors alike to step up-and to act.

The technology, which uses machine-learning software to identify people in videos and photographs, is being used by social network sites, photo applications and even by Apple as a security measure to unlock iPhones.

In addition, the technology is being increasingly used by authorities to identify suspects in crimes. Last month, law enforcement officials used a facial-recognition system to identify the man responsible for the deadly mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. The Anne Arundel County Police Department uploaded a photo of the suspect into the Maryland Image Repository System, which contains a database of mug shots and driver's licenses. The system was able to use face-recognition technology to match the suspect's photograph to his license number. 

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Although Smith admits that the use of facial recognition technology can be "both positive and potentially even profound," he also argues that the technology has controversial and dangerous uses.

"Imagine a government tracking everywhere you walked over the past month without your permission or knowledge. Imagine a database of everyone who attended a political rally that constitutes the very essence of free speech," Smith wrote in the post.

"Imagine the stores of a shopping mall using facial recognition to share information with each other about each shelf that you browse and product you buy, without asking you first. This has long been the stuff of science fiction and popular movies — like ‘Minority Report,' ‘Enemy of the State' and even ‘1984' — but now it's on the verge of becoming possible," he added.

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