Microsoft has become the first tech giant to initiate a call for regulations to limit the use of facial recognition technology that can be used for mass surveillance affecting civil liberties.
Highlighting the potential uses and abuses of facial recognition, Bradford L. Smith, the company’s president, on Friday posted a blog comparing the technology to products like medicines and cars that are highly regulated, the New York Times reported.
Smith urged the US Congress to study it and oversee its use. “We live in a nation of laws, and the government needs to play an important role in regulating facial recognition technology,” Smith wrote.
“A world with vigorous regulation of products that are useful but potentially troubling is better than a world devoid of legal standards,” he added.
Facial recognition technology has become a new lightning rod for critics. It is used to identify people in photos or video feeds without their knowledge or permission.
Proponents see it as a potentially important tool for identifying criminals, but civil liberties experts have warned that it could enable mass surveillance, hindering people’s ability to freely attend political protests or go about their day-to-day lives in anonymity, the NYT report said.
Smith’s entreaty is “unusual” as tech giants rarely advocate regulation of their innovations, the NYT report said.
Smith’s appeal also comes as the Silicon Valley is facing withering scrutiny from lawmakers and privacy experts.
Several companies have been criticised for their role in spreading false information during the 2016 election, and exploiting users’ personal data leading some like Facebook to become open to regulation of practices like political advertising.