Microsoft Declines Selling AI Facial Recognition Software To California Police.

Two days ago on Tuesday Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, Brad Smith, made a statement saying the company would not sell or provide its AI facial recognition software to the Californian police.

Ever since December has announced it will be more transparent about its facial recognition software and the moral issues caused by imperfections in the software (more on that in my article on AI biases),however did not rule out selling to police agencies.

Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, U.S.

Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, U.S.

In the Stanford University conference on “human-centered artificial intelligence” where he spoke, he mentioned:

Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan

With the amount of times AI can be mistaken when it comes to ethnic minorities and women they deemed the technology “not your answer”.

As well as declining the Californian police Mr Smith also mentioned that Microsoft had declined a deal to install facial recognition on cameras all over the capital city of an unnamed country that according to the Freedom House charity has Freedom issues. Smith said it would have “suppressed freedom of assembly there”.

However recently Microsoft has sold its facial recognition software to an American prison, after the company came to the conclusion that the environment would be limited and that it would improve safety inside the unnamed prison.

Smith explained his reasoning for taking this course of action, that being: as a commitment to human rights he said looking at things from an ethics perspective is of vital importance as rapid technological advances empower governments to conduct large scale surveillance, deploy autonomous weapons and take other steps that might prove impossible to reverse.

As Mr Smith calls for tighter regulation on AI and its applications, warning that data-hungry companies could end up in a "race to the bottom.", some of the public turn to Amazon which has been a lot less transparent with its facial "Rekognition" software  Mr Smith's speech on Tuesday adds to the pressure building on Amazon to stop selling its to law enforcement (more on this in my article on an open letter to stop Amazon selling "Rekognition" software to police). Amazon shareholders will hold a vote regarding the issue on May 22.

In conclusion it is refreshing to see such a large player in the AI industry standing up for human rights and taking an ethical view of AI and its applications, we hope other firms take the same course of action regarding ethical AI


Ethics, FinanceArturo Dezon