Microsoft has followed Amazon and IBM to restrict the way they supply facial recognition technology to police agencies. The company says it doesn't supply its technology to police at the moment, but it says it won't do this until federal legislation governs the safe and inviolable deployment of the technology.
IBM said it would stop all sales, development and research in the controversial technology at the beginning of the week. Amazon said on wednesday that it would stop providing its technology to police until Congress places a regulation on ethical use of technology it provides."
On Thursday, Microsoft President Brad Smith echoed Amazon's position more carefully to describe the new approach of the company to facial recognition: not rule out one day selling the technology to the police but calling first for regulation.
"We are not selling face recognition technology in United States police departments today as a result of the principles that we have put in place," he told The Washington Post. "However, I believe that this is a time when we really are required to listen more, learn more, and above all, to do more. Because of this, we have decided not to sell facial recognition to the US police departments until we have a national human rights bill governing this technology.
It appears that Microsoft can still provide facial recognition to human rights groups in combating trafic and other abuse, as Amazon said it would do with its platform for recognition. Smith also stated that Microsoft would be "implantated to provide a number of further review factors to help us investigate other possible applications of technology that go beyond our own.
Although Microsoft has previously sold access to this technology to police departments, it has since adopted a more principled approach. Out of concern about human rights violations, the last year Microsoft denied California access to its facial recognition tech. It also announced that, after accusations of an Israeli Microsoft start-up investing in providing Israeli government technology for spying against Palestinians, they would no longer invest in third-party companies that develop the technology back in March.
Microsoft supported California laws as recently as this year that would allow the police departments and private firms to buy and use such systems, according to the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU). The laws that banned the use of the technology by police and governments last year are following in San Francisco, Oakland and other Californian cities. Last week, the draft law, AB 2261, failed to win the ACLU and the coalition of 65 organisations.
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