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Microsoft Won’t Sell its Facial Recognition Tech to Law Enforcement

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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Tech juggernaut Microsoft won’t sell its facial recognition software to police or law enforcement until more federal regulations for facial recognition technology are set in place.

This is what company president Brad Smith said during an interview. “The bottom line for us is to protect the human rights of people as this technology is deployed,” Smith adds that the company hasn’t previously sold the technology to law enforcement.

Both consumer advocates and civil liberties groups have long warned about the dangers of facial recognition technologies, particularly with respect to the police. Two years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began calling on tech giants to stop providing the technology to governments and law enforcement agencies, arguing that it posed a potential threat, especially to immigrants and people of colour.

Microsoft has quietly been dismantling facial recognition databases. Last year, the company brought a massive database down consisting of more than 10 million facial images after the database was linked to the Chinese government’s crackdown of ethnic Muslims.

“When even the makers of face recognition refuse to sell this surveillance technology because it is so dangerous, lawmakers can no longer deny the threats to our rights and liberties,” says Matt Cagle, a technology and civil liberties attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.

“For the past two years we have been focused on developing and implementing strong principles that govern our use of facial recognition, and we’ve been calling for strong government regulation,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNET.

“We do not sell our facial recognition technology to US police departments today, and until there is a strong national law grounded in human rights, we will not sell this technology to police departments.”

“We’re committed to working with others to advocate for the legislation that is needed,” the Microsoft spokesperson says. “We’re also taking this opportunity to further strengthen our review processes for any customer seeking to use this technology at scale.”

Amazon and IBM ban facial recognition tech for the police

This move from Microsoft comes after retail megacorp Amazon and computer hardware manufacturer IBM have both barred their facial recognition technology from being used by law enforcement.

Many US companies have been advancing methods against racial inequality after #BlackLivesMatter protests were organised across the US.

Edited by Luis Monzon
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