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Microsoft Won't Sell Facial Recognition Tech To Police

The company says there is a ban in place until federal regulations that are ‘grounded in human rights’ are passed.

Microsoft is the latest tech giant to say it will not sell its facial recognition technology to police departments, at least for now.

As first reported by the Washington Post, Microsoft President Brad Smith on Thursday said the company has put a ban on facial recognition sales to police until federal regulations of the technology are passed.

[Related: AWS Bans Cops From Using Rekognition For One Year]

In a statement provided to CRN, Microsoft said that “for the past two years we have been focused on developing and implementing strong principles that govern our use of facial recognition, and we’ve been calling for strong government regulation.”

“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 departments," Microsoft said in the statement. "We’re committed to working with others to advocate for the legislation that is needed. We’re also taking this opportunity to further strengthen our review processes for any customer seeking to use this technology at scale."

The move follows similar pledges this week by AWS and IBM, which have come amid widespread protests of police mistreatment of members of the black community in the U.S.

In a blog post in March, Smith wrote that he agrees that there is a "risk of bias in facial recognition technology," which he argued needs to be addressed by lawmakers.

"The risk of bias is real. Recent NIST research demonstrated that some facial recognition technologies have encountered higher error rates across different demographic groups," Smith wrote at the time.

This week, AWS enacted a one-year moratorium on allowing police to use its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, and called for federal regulation of the technology. Also this week, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said the company has stopped selling facial recognition software altogether--and will stop developing the technology, as well.

Organizations including the ACLU have called for Microsoft to follow the moves by AWS and IBM. "Microsoft, which has issued a number of statements in support of Black Lives Matter, has not prohibited the sale of its face recognition system to police departments," the ACLU wrote in a post on Monday.

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