Microsoft joins IBM; halts sale of facial recognition tech to US Police

The Software Giant declined to offer these services to the US police force until federal regulations come into place.

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Image Courtesy: The Official Microsoft Blog

Microsoft joins the list of tech giants to announce that they would await federal regulations before selling facial recognition technology to the Police. Earlier, Amazon and IBM had taken the same stance as protests against racial discrimination continue in the country following the death of George Floyd.

“We do not sell our facial recognition technology to US police departments today, and until there is a strong national law grounded in human rights, we will not sell this technology to police.”
Microsoft Statement

Amazon had announced that it is pausing the police use of its “Rekognition” while IBM declared that it is no longer offering the face recognition technology in general.

The technology has faced widespread criticism as research has found that it is less accurate in identifying people with darker skin tones. Concerns regarding the technology being used unfairly to identify the protestors had sparked discussions.

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.”

The trio is asking Congress to set rules for how the law enforcement department uses facial recognition. “If all of the responsible companies in the country cede this market to those that are not prepared to take a stand, we won’t necessarily serve the national interest or the lives of the black and African American people of this nation well,” Smith said. “We need Congress to act, not just tech companies alone.

Microsoft added that it would be revising the way it reviews its customers seeking the technology. Mike Jude, a director at research firm IDC, said the big companies’ decisions – at a time of regulatory scrutiny in the United States and Europe – would earn goodwill without sacrificing much business. It was not made clear whether the pause would be applicable to the police forces outside the US.