Microsoft Refutes Idea of Selling Facial Recognition Solution for Blanket Surveillance

In the technology industry, there is a growing focus on facial recognition solutions. Governments and technology giants alike explore numerous opportunities in this regard. However, it seems not all companies are intent on selling their in-house developed technology to a government either. One surprising company on that list is Microsoft, as they have zero interest in offering facial recognition tech to law enforcement agencies.

Microsoft Protects Users’ Privacy

Anyone who has kept a close eye on Microsoft over the years will have noticed a peculiar trend. The company, while globally popular, doesn’t always protect consumers’ civil rights as well as one would like.  This is in line with virtually all other big technology firms on the market today. Surprisingly, that situation is coming to change for the better. In a recent talk, Microsoft President Brad Smith made the company’s stance on facial recognition technology very clear.

During the speech, Smith confirmed Microsoft was approached by a law enforcement agency. The inquiry pertains to the technology giant’s facial recognition technology. Despite the offer appearing to be genuine, Microsoft has politely declined this opportunity to sell their product for such purposes. Smith also mentions a capital city has approached the company for similar purposes, yet that offer was declined as well. It appears Microsoft wants to focus on protecting civil rights, for some undefined reason.

While it is promising to see Microsoft do the right thing, the company remains an exception in the technology industry. Amazon is a notorious example of how things can be done differently. The retail giant’s Rekognition software is used by multiple law enforcement agencies today. This is despite a recent report confirming the facial recognition solution has a racial bias. There is still a very long way to go until AI-driven facial recognition technology works as expected and without prejudice.

When one technology giant acknowledges the technology isn’t ready for real-world use, an interesting situation is created. Microsoft is seemingly concern over its solution misidentifying people when it comes to crimes and other incidents. Additionally, the company always asks what the technology will be used for exactly. In the case of the capital city inquiring about facial recognition, their “blanket surveillance’ was not in line with what the technology firm has in mind.

Regardless of how surprising this stance by Microsoft may be, it is still a prominent turn of events. There is a big difference between developing facial recognition solutions and how they are being used. Some companies simply oppose the idea of blanket surveillance being facilitated due to their in-house developments. Although no one really expected Microsoft to be one of those companies, their stance has been made pretty clear for everyone to see.

The bigger question is whether or not other companies will follow Microsoft’s train of thought. It seems unlikely Amazon will change its position because of this announcement. However, dozens of startups and smaller companies explore the opportunities involving facial recognition as well. Law enforcement agencies can tap on many shoulder sot obtain the technology they need. For now, that will not include a Microsoft solution, but it remains to be seen how long the firm will hold out in this regard.