Microsoft Joins IBM and Amazon in Facial Recognition Withdrawal

By Bill Toulas / June 12, 2020

Although Microsoft has previously stated that facial recognition systems shouldn’t be banned, they have now decided to step on the right side of history and rise to the occasion. Microsoft president Brad Smith told Washington Post that the company would stop selling facial recognition systems to the police in the United States until there’s a law on how to use these tools with respect to human rights. This is more similar to what IBM called for and stronger than Amazon’s decision to simply pause their program for a year.

This leaves US lawmakers in an awkward position, as the system that should have taken steps to protect the citizens in the country proactively is exposed for negligence, inaction, and massive delay. IBM, Amazon, and now Microsoft are taking the initiative to call the Congress members to do something they should have already done a long time ago - and that is to form the legislation that underpins the use of powerful facial recognition technologies. When even the most competitive tech giants that sell these products are taking a step back to ponder on the ethical aspect of their business, what is left to say about the state’s failure and the fulfillment of its putative role to protect people’s First Amendment rights?

Vice has decided to reach out to 43 facial recognition companies and ask them if they will refuse to sell their products to police departments across the United States or not. The vast majority of them didn’t respond, and those who did, shared the following:

AnyVision – The police do not currently use their product, but they believe that it should be used by law enforcement and that fighting racial bias should come through the broader application of these systems.

CyberLink Corp – Agreed that regulation is needed, and called for a focus on other practical applications besides surveillance.

Innovatrics – Declared to have no relation with any police department, and no plans to work with the police in general.

Palantir – Stated that they do not develop any facial recognition systems and that they do not work with US law enforcement in this area.

Trueface – Denied selling their facial recognition tech to the US police, but they continue developing their products to tackle bias problems.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Told Vice they only use facial recognition to investigate child exploitation, human trafficking, and other criminal cases.

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