Microsoft has confirmed that it will not be selling any facial recognition technology to the police. The company has refused to sell facial recognition tech to law enforcement in the past, but critics have been asking for a firmer commitment as anti-police brutality protests have continued in recent days.
“This moment calls on us to listen more, to learn more and most importantly to do more,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “Given that, we’ve decided that 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.”
The announcement comes in the wake of similar commitments from IBM and Amazon. IBM suspended its entire facial recognition program and has the strongest stance of the three companies. Amazon, meanwhile, only agreed to stop selling to police for a year, and has called for legislation to regulate the use of the technology.
Microsoft falls somewhere in between the two extremes. The company has repeatedly stated that facial recognition should not be used for mass surveillance, and it has long been reticent to share its technology with the police. In that regard, its position predates the recent protests.
However, Microsoft has argued that facial recognition should be legal in some capacity. Northern California ACLU technology and civil liberties attorney Matt Cagle called out the company for supporting legislation that enables the use of facial recognition.
“When even the makers of face recognition refuse to sell this surveillance technology because it is so dangerous, lawmakers can no longer deny the threats to our rights and liberties,” said Cagle. “Congress and legislatures must stop law enforcement use of face recognition, and companies like Microsoft should work with the civil rights community — not against it — to make that happen.”
Microsoft is a major proponent of the new regulatory guidelines that were passed in the state of Washington earlier this year.
June 12, 2020 – by Eric Weiss