Microsoft has followed competitors Amazon and IBM in restricting how it provides facial recognition technology to third parties, in particular to law enforcement agencies. The company says that it does not currently provide the technology to police, but it’s now saying it will not do so until there are federal laws governing how it can be deployed safely and without infringing on human rights or civil liberties.
IBM said earlier this week it will outright cease all sales, development, and research of the controversial tech. Amazon on Wednesday said it would stop providing it to police for one year to give Congress time to put in place “stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology.”
Microsoft president Brad Smith most closely echoed Amazon’s stance on Thursday in outlining the company’s new approach to facial recognition: not ruling out that it will one day sell the tech to police but calling for regulation first.
“As a result of the principles that we’ve put in place, we do not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States today,” Smith told The Washington Post. “But I do think this is a moment in time that really calls on us to listen more, to learn more, and most importantly, to do more. Given that, we’ve decided that we will not sell facial recognition to police departments in the United States until we have a national law in place ground in human rights that will govern this technology.”
Smith said Microsoft would also “put in place some additional review factors so that we’re looking into other potential uses of the technology that goes even beyond what we already have.” That seems to indicate Microsoft may still provide facial recognition to human rights groups to combat trafficking and other abuses, as Amazon said it would continue doing with its Rekognition platform.