Microsoft calls for facial recognition technology rules given 'potential for abuse'

Microsoft has called on the government to step up and regulate facial recognition technology.

In a blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith called for “thoughtful government regulation” and “the development of norms” around using facial recognition technology.

“Without a thoughtful approach, public authorities may rely on flawed or biased technological approaches to decide who to track, investigate or even arrest for a crime,” Smith wrote.

Smith also said Microsoft, which has supplied facial recognition to some businesses, already has rejected some customers’ requests to deploy the technology in situations involving “human rights risks.”

He called for Congress to form a bipartisan “expert commission” to inform the necessary new regulations.

“While we appreciate that some people today are calling for tech companies to make these decisions – and we recognize a clear need for our own exercise of responsibility... we believe this is an inadequate substitute for decision making by the public and its representatives in a democratic republic,” he wrote.


Although Smith noted some of the positive applications of the technology, such as finding a missing child, he described other potential uses as “more sobering.”

“Imagine the stores of a shopping mall using facial recognition to share information with each other about each shelf that you browse and product you buy, without asking you first.”

Privacy advocates and civil-liberties groups have long called for stringent oversight of facial recognition technology.

“Imagine a database of everyone who attended a political rally that constitutes the very essence of free speech,” he wrote.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to provide more details to the Guardian about what opportunities the company has chosen to avoid over ethical concerns.