Big Techs reaction over US protests; Microsoft bans police over using it’s facial recognition

by Shatakshi Gupta

Microsoft Corporation on Thursday informed that it would first wait for any federal rule or regulation, in the direction of selling its facial recognition technology to the police departments. These words from the Microsoft Corporation came in the light of the protests which are going on in the United States, in order to prevent its use for any kind of brutality as well as any kind of biasness against the protesters.

This decision made by Microsoft is also believed to be the result of the announcement which was recently made by the other rivals of Microsoft like Amazon and International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Amazon publicized that it was pausing the use of its “Rekognition” service for police, and this decision would continue for one year. On the other hand, IBM said that it would no longer offer its software in general.

According to Reuters, Microsoft also stated that it would formulate its principles as well as legislations for regulating the use of its software. “We do not sell our facial recognition technology to U.S. police departments today, and until there is a strong national law grounded in human rights, we will not sell this technology to police,” the company said. The Washington Post first reported the news.

Also Read: How George Floyd’s death led to mass protests in US

George Floyd, an African American who was brutally killed by a police officer, Derek Chauvin. This police officer killed George by pressing his knees against the neck of George on May 25, 2020, it was for complete nine minutes that Derek pressed George’s neck and killed him on the roadside of Minneapolis, in the United States. This brutal killing of George triggered the massive protests in the US. This protest was against the racial discrimination which took away not only George’s life but also of many other African Americans in US. These protests also raised concerns over the use of facial recognition technology which could be used in targeting the protesters unfairly.

A research also found that face analysis was actually less accurate for people with darker skin tones, adding to activists’ warnings that false matches could lead to unjust as well as unwarranted arrests. Matt Cagle, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said, “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.” Congress has weighed possible regulation for months.

Yet, there are some facial recognition vendors like Idemia and DataWorks Plus, who are standing there to help police departments.

Microsoft and Amazon stayed silent when they were requested for their comments on whether their bans will be applicable to law enforcement broadly, such as an unnamed prison to which Microsoft had previously said it would provide software.

Militaries and intelligence agencies also use facial recognition, an old tool that has become common in recent years because of newer computer models that detect patterns in faces and objects.

But concerns still persist over weaknesses with people of color and targeted use against minorities. Microsoft said it was updating how it reviews customers looking to deploy the technology widely.