Microsoft Praises Washington State Stance on Facial Recognition

Posted on April 1, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft with 0 Comments

Microsoft has been asking governments to regulate facial recognition for the past two years. One U.S. state is finally listening.

“Washington Governor Jay Inslee has signed landmark facial recognition legislation that the state legislature passed on March 12,” Microsoft president Brad Smith writes in one of the software giant’s corporate blogs. “This legislation represents a significant breakthrough, the first time a state or nation has passed a new law devoted exclusively to putting guardrails in place for the use of facial recognition technology.”

As Smith notes, Microsoft has been calling for facial recognition regulation since 2018, when it publicly shared its fears about the potential for abuse. In April 2019, the software giant revealed that it would not provide its own facial recognition software to California because it would lead to innocent women and minorities being disproportionately held for questioning; the AI, Microsoft said, had been trained on mostly white and male pictures.

“Washington state’s new law breaks through what, at times, has been a polarizing debate,” Smith continues. “When the new law comes into effect next year, Washingtonians will benefit from safeguards that ensure upfront testing, transparency, and accountability for facial recognition, as well as specific measures to uphold fundamental civil liberties. At the same time, state and local government agencies may use facial recognition services to locate or identify missing persons, including subjects of Amber and Silver Alerts, and to help keep the public safe. This balanced approach ensures that facial recognition can be used as a tool to protect the public, but only in ways that respect fundamental rights and serve the public interest.”

One down. 49 to go.

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