Microsoft has called for facial recognition technology to be regulated by the government, as there are fears that authorities might track, investigate or arrest people based on flawed evidence.
To give you some context, facial recognition technology is a type of biometric technology that can identify human faces. The system can analyse the characteristics of a person’s face that are taken with a digital camera. The technology has been advancing at a quick rate over the past decade. A wide variety of tech companies like Microsoft have utilised this technology to turn time-consuming work into things that are instantaneous and require little to no supervision or review. This technology has become so ingrained and infused into our personal and professional lives now that it no longer stands apart from our society.
Some of the uses of facial recognition technology can be reassuringly positive and helpful. Facial recognition in the future could be used to recognise a missing child walking down the street if they have been kidnapped. Or could help identify a terrorist walking near crowded areas. In contrast, there are aspects of facial recognition that are more sobering and troublesome. Governments have the ability to track anyone anywhere without your knowledge or permission. Ad agencies could begin to start profiling people who walk past interactive ads in public and could begin to show targeted ads based on how you look, age, race, etc. This is certainly becoming a reality and I am sure the majority of people will feel deeply uncomfortable with this.
As mentioned, Microsoft has utilised facial recognition technology in their products however the president of Microsoft Brad Smith has now urged the US government to enact regulation to control the use of the technology. Smith emphasised the point in the official Microsoft blog that new laws are necessary given the technology’s “broad societal ramifications and potential for abuse”. He continued to explain that lawmakers needed to form “a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology, informed first by a bipartisan and expert commission”.
Smith believes that facial recognition technology could prevent some abuses if it goes through confidence intervals and needs to pass them before it can be trusted. Some form of human oversight controls that ensure accountability and leave open the possibility for humans to stop harmful uses of tech in progress. He also touches on the point around how much consent an individual needs to give or be given before a camera records their face and a computer processes it. Smith also writes “Facial recognition technology raises issues that go to the heart of fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression”. Even though Microsoft appreciates the calls for tech companies to make decisions over facial recognition, Smith stresses that it is more sensible to ask an elected government to oversee the technology.