Face recognition regulation is a major disagreement among the world's largest technology companies, with Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai proposing a temporary ban, as recently proposed by the EU, while Microsoft's chief legal officer, Brad, Smith warns of such interventions.
"I think it is important that governments and regulations tackle this sooner rather than later and create a framework for it," said Pichai at a conference in Brussels on Monday, reports Reuters . "It may be immediate, but there may be a wait before we really think about how it will be used … It is up to governments to set the course."
But in an interview released last week, Smith acts as Microsoft's chief legal officer rejected the idea of a moratorium.
" You can try to solve a problem with a cleaver or scalpel, "Smith said to NPR when asked about a possible ban. "And you know, if you can solve the problem in a way that allows you to do good things and stop bad things … that requires a scalpel. This is young technology. It gets better. But the only way to improve it is to develop it further. And the only way to develop it is for more people to use it. “
The comments of the two executives come from the fact that the EU is considering a five-year ban on facial recognition in public spaces. The EU proposal, which was leaked to the press last week and could change with official announcement, says a temporary ban would give governments and regulators time to assess the dangers of the technology.
Law enforcement agencies and private companies worldwide are increasingly using facial recognition to identify people in public spaces. While advocates argue that technology helps solve crimes, critics undermine civil liberties and lead to increased discrimination based on algorithmic bias.
Face recognition is a key technology the Chinese state is using to suppress its Muslim Uyghur minority. For example, the country is selling the same technology to other repression regimes around the world. In the United States, the technology is increasingly being used by the police through small businesses. A recent report by the New York Times illuminates a facial recognition system that can search 3 billion photos from websites like Facebook without user consent and is used by more than 600 local law enforcement agencies. [1
"[T] In my opinion, there is no question that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated," he said. "Companies like ours cannot just develop promising new technologies and let market forces decide how to use them."
So far, the market has actually set the rules, and large tech companies have different views on the subject. Microsoft sells facial recognition, but it has its own limits, for example that the police are allowed to use the technology in prisons but not on the street and not to sell it to immigration authorities. Amazon has been eagerly seeking police partnerships, especially though its video ringtones, which critics say give law enforcement officials access to a massive crowdsourcing surveillance network.
At least in the United States, it seems unlikely that a nationwide ban could be introduced. Some American cities such as San Francisco and Berkley have independently banned the technology, but the White House has cited such measures as examples of excessive regulations. The government has indicated that it wants to take a practical approach to regulating AI, including facial recognition, on behalf of the innovation impetus.