Microsoft CEO Says Gov’t Regulation Needed to Prevent ‘Race to the Bottom’ in Facial Recognition

Microsoft CEO Says Gov't Regulation Needed to Prevent 'Race to the Bottom' in Facial Recognition

Microsoft’s top leadership continue to call for regulation of the facial recognition industry, this time with CEO Satya Nadella making the case in a talk at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“In the marketplace there’s no discrimination between the right use and the wrong use,” he said, regarding practices concerning the development and sale of facial recognition technology. “We welcome any regulation that helps the marketplace not be a race to the bottom.”

The comments come after repeated calls for regulation from the company’s President, Brad Smith, last year. Speaking at the Web Summit conference in November, for example, Smith warned that a lack of government regulation points to a future of heavy-handed surveillance using such biometric technologies. “Before we wake up and find that the year 2024 looks like the book ‘1984’, let’s figure out what kind of world we want to create, and what are the safeguards and what are the limitations of both companies and governments for the use of this technology,” he said at the time.

The executives are staying on message after a year in which rival Amazon’s sale of facial recognition technology to law enforcement authorities in the US caused controversy and sparked a heated public debate. For its part, Amazon has defended its work with government on the grounds that facial recognition technology is a socially beneficial tool in its capability of fighting human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

For his part, Nadella echoed this sentiment in his Davos talk while also highlighting the dangers of sophisticated facial recognition. “I can come up with 10 uses that are very virtuous and important and can improve human life, and 10 uses that would cause problems,” he said. Hence the need for government regulation, he suggested, since it can help to steer the industry toward the former kinds of applications, and away from the latter.

Source: World Economic Forum

January 24, 2019 – by Alex Perala