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Microsoft touts recommendations for facial recognition tech legislation

Microsoft President Brad Smith said governments and businesses should work together to prevent the technology being misused

Microsoft facial recognition

Microsoft president Brad Smith has called for the government to create legislation around the use of facial recognition technologies to protect the privacy of citizens.

Smith discussed the issue with the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC and then followed up with a blog post, calling for action to be taken to protect the privacy and democratic rights of civilians.

He spoke of the benefits facial recognition technologies bring to society, but also highlights that it's open to abuse and called for greater research into the technology.

"In the ensuing months, we've been pursuing these issues further, talking with technologists, companies, civil society groups, academics and public officials around the world," Smith said. "We've learned more and tested new ideas. Based on this work, we believe it's important to move beyond study and discussion. The time for action has arrived."

He said that in 2019, governments must adopt laws to regulate how and where facial recognition can be used. If action is not taken now, there's the risk that it will have become so mainstream in five years that there will be no going back.

"In particular, we don't believe that the world will be best served by a commercial race to the bottom, with tech companies forced to choose between social responsibility and market success, " Smith commented. "We believe that the only way to protect against this race to the bottom is to build a floor of responsibility that supports healthy market competition."

For this to work, companies must be governed by law that allows for business growth while considering the public good.

Smith also urged other tech firms to take proactive action and create their own safeguards rather than waiting for governments to release relevant legislation.

The company has set a precedent by coming up with six principles to manage the use of facial recognition across industry, with plans to implement them by the end of next year.

"Governments and the tech sector both play a vital role in ensuring that facial recognition technology creates broad societal benefits while curbing the risk of abuse," Smith added. "While many of the issues are becoming increasingly clear, the technology is young. We need to tackle the initial questions now and learn as we go, developing more knowledge and expertise as the technology evolves and public sector experience deepens."

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