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Microsoft unveils facial recognition principles

December 7, 2018 • Security

Microsoft President Brad Smith

Microsoft President Brad Smith

On Thursday, 6 December 2018, Microsoft announced ethical principles for the use of its facial recognition technology, saying it would bar such technology from being used to engage in unlawful discrimination and would encourage customers to be transparent when deploying such services.

In a blog post on Thursday, Microsoft President Brad Smith pushed for urgency in regulating facial-recognition technology, while adding that tech companies should self regulate too.

“We must ensure that the year 2024 doesn’t look like a page from the novel ‘1984,’” Smith said.

“An indispensable democratic principle has always been the tenet that no government is above the law. Today this requires that we ensure that governmental use of facial recognition technology remain subject to the rule of law. New legislation can put us on this path.”

Earlier this year, Microsoft said it saw a need for some kind of regulation of facial recognition, and on Thursday Smith outlined principles that the company sees as important.

Smith said the tech firm will press for legislation to be passed as early as 2019 that would require transparency, human review and privacy safeguards for any deployment of facial recognition.

He said Microsoft would begin adopting these principles itself, while urging other tech firms to do the same.”This is a global issue and the industry needs to address these issues head on,” he said.

Smith said an important element would be to require “meaningful human review” when facial recognition algorithms are used to make key decisions that can affect a person’s privacy, human rights or freedom, and to safeguard against discrimination or bias.

Additionally, he said new laws should set limits on police use of facial recognition, so it may be used only with a court order or in the case of an imminent threat.

“We believe it’s important for governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate this technology. The facial recognition genie, so to speak, is just emerging from the bottle,” he said.

“Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues. By that time, these challenges will be much more difficult to bottle back up,” he concluded.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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