Microsoft calls for regulation of facial recognition technology

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Caring Sharing tech giant Microsoft has called for proper regulation of facial recognition software to limit abuse.

In a blog post, Brad Smith, president of the Company warned: “All tools can be used for good or ill. Even a broom can be used to sweep the floor or hit someone over the head. The more powerful the tool, the greater the benefit or damage it can cause.”

Once one of his aides had presumably taken him aside and explained that brooms and faces were different, he continued: “These issues are not going to go away. They reflect the rapidly expanding capabilities of new technologies that increasingly will define the decade ahead.

“Facial recognition is the technology of the moment (poor Cortana – cm), but it’s apparent that other new technologies will raise similar issues in the future. This makes it even more important that we use this moment to get the direction right.

“The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself.”

Microsoft is already using facial recognition as part of Windows Hello, its biometric security option (which borked early doors, though it now works much better) and like most of the big companies, its already working on a raft of other uses.

Privacy advocates have warned repeatedly of the Orwellian nature of facial recognition, with China being among the first countries to implement it en masse.

In the UK, tests by the Met Police have been almost entirely unsuccessful with virtually none of the matches made on the system proving to be accurate.

Smith admits himself that it’s unusual for a company to demand government regulation of its tech, but after recent heavy criticism of its involvement in the US ICE department’s child snatcher policies, it’s not surprising that this is another charm offensive, adding: “a��there are many markets where thoughtful regulation contributes to a healthier dynamic for consumers and producers alike.”

The danger is that our ongoing enthusiasm as a global society to use tech when it’s available, rather than when it’s ready means that false identifications are inevitable right now and even those who say they have nothing to hide could find themselves in a case of mistaken identity.

Maybe then Microsoft is right, it’s time to chill our boots.

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David Li

David Li writes regular column on Driverdown for some big names, including Apple, Google and Microsoft. His role before joined Driversdown is senior writer of qudong.com, and then Science and Technology Daily. David based in Driversdown Beijing office. Contact David via david@driversdown.com