Life Tech Microsoft seeks regulation before selling facial recognition tools to police after BLM protests

Microsoft seeks regulation before selling facial recognition tools to police after BLM protests

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Microsoft says it will wait for federal regulation before selling facial recognition technology to US police departments.

It is the third US big tech company this week to say it won’t sell its facial recognition software to police, following similar moves by Amazon and IBM.

Amazon declared on Wednesday (local time) it was pausing police use of its “Rekognition” service for a year, while IBM also said this week it no longer is generally offering the software and that technology should not promote racial injustice.

Microsoft’s president and chief counsel, Brad Smith, announced the decision and called on Congress to regulate the technology during a Washington Post video event on Thursday.

“We’ve decided we will not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States until we have a national law in place, grounded in human rights, that will govern this technology,” Mr Smith said.

The trio of tech giants is stepping back from law-enforcement use of systems that have faced criticism for incorrectly identifying people with darker skin.

Research has found facial recognition technology struggles to identify people with darker skin tones. Photo: IStock

Ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd have focused attention on racial injustice in the US and how police use technology to track people.

But while all three companies are known for their work in developing artificial intelligence, including face recognition software, none is a major player in selling such technology to police.

Several other companies that are less well known dominate the market for government facial recognition contracts in the US, including Tokyo-based NEC and the European companies Idemia and Gemalto.

-with agencies