As tech companies such as Facebook come under increasing scrutiny by government’s across the world, Microsoft asked the government to regulate the use of facial recognition technology to ensure that does not invade personal privacy or become a tool for discrimination or surveillance.
This technology brings important and even exciting societal benefits but also the potential for abuse. “We must ensure that the year 2024 doesn’t look like a page from the novel ‘1984’, Microsoft president Brad Smith said in a blog post.
The time for action has arrived.
“We believe it’s important for governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate this technology. The facial recognition genie, so to speak, is just emerging from the bottle. Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues. By that time, these challenges will be much more difficult to bottle back up,” said Smith.
Tech companies are often forced to choose between social responsibility and profits, but the consequences of facial recognition are too dire for business as usual, he said.
The only way to protect against this race to the bottom is to build a floor of responsibility that supports healthy market competition. And a solid floor requires that we ensure that this technology, and the organizations that develop and use it, are governed by the rule of law.
To address bias, Smith said legislation should require companies to provide documentation about what their technology can and can’t do in terms customers and consumers can understand.
He urged other tech companies to act. The problems that need to be addressed, according to him are risks and potential for abuse, should be addressed through legislation
- First, especially in its current state of development, certain uses of facial recognition technology increase the risk of decisions and, more generally, outcomes that are biased and, in some cases, in violation of laws prohibiting discrimination.
- Second, the widespread use of this technology can lead to new intrusions into people’s privacy.
- And third, the use of facial recognition technology by a government for mass surveillance can encroach on democratic freedoms.
New laws can address this need with the following approach:
- Requiring transparency: Legislation should require tech companies that offer facial recognition services to provide documentation that explains the capabilities and limitations of the technology in terms that customers and consumers can understand.
- Enabling third-party testing and comparisons: New laws should also require that providers of commercial facial recognition services enable third parties engaged in independent testing to conduct and publish reasonable tests of their facial recognition services for accuracy and unfair bias. interface or other technical capability suitable for this purpose.
- Ensuring meaningful human review: Entities that deploy facial recognition undertake meaningful human review of facial recognition results prior to making final decisions for what the law deems to be ‘consequential use cases’ that affect consumers.
- Avoiding use for unlawful discrimination: Entities that deploy facial recognition services recognise that they are not absolved of their obligation to comply with laws prohibiting discrimination against individual consumers or groups of consumers.
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