Fa­cial recognition tech is dou­ble-edged, needs to be han­dled care­fully, warns Mi­crosoft

The Hindu Business Line - - IT & TELECOM -

Mi­crosoft Pres­i­dent Brad Smith has ex­pressed op­ti­mism about the po­ten­tial of fa­cial recognition tech­nol­ogy as he cited the ex­am­ple of In­dia, where it helped in iden­ti­fy­ing al­most 3,000 miss­ing chil­dren in four days.

Smith wants to see tech com­pa­nies proac­tively adopt­ing poli­cies that pro­hibit abuse of the tech­nol­ogy and he hopes to hold Mi­crosoft up as an ex­am­ple.

“As with all new tech­nol­ogy, the uses of fa­cial recognition are mul­ti­ply­ing in both pre­dictable and sur­pris­ing ways. But it’s in­creas­ingly clear that a great many of these uses have cre­ated many new and pos­i­tive ben­e­fits for peo­ple around the world, he wrote.

In coun­tries like In­dia, Ar­ti­fi­cial Brad Smith, Pres­i­dent, Mi­crosoft

In­tel­li­gence (AI) has been used for pos­i­tive ben­e­fits, Smith wrote.

“It’s strik­ing to re­view the breadth of this in­no­va­tion. Po­lice in New Delhi re­cently tri­aled fa­cial recognition tech­nol­ogy and iden­ti­fied al­most 3,000 miss­ing chil­dren in four days,” Smith wrote in his blog which made no ref­er­ence to the Chi­nese use of AI.

Mi­crosoft is one of sev­eral com­pa­nies play­ing a lead­ing role in de­vel­op­ing fa­cial recognition tech­nol­ogy, he said.

“We’re work­ing with cus­tomers around the world, while act­ing ag­gres­sively on in­dus­trylead­ing ef­forts to im­prove the ca­pa­bil­ity of this tech­nol­ogy to recog­nise faces with a range of ages and skin tones,” he added.

Smith ar­gued that one needs to be clear-eyed about the risks and po­ten­tial for abuse.

He was con­cerned about a fu­ture in which fa­cial recognition spreads with­out strong reg­u­la­tions.

Is­sues to be ad­dressed

There are three problems that gov­ern­ments need to ad­dress, he said.

“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, he wrote.

He said the wide­spread use of this tech­nol­ogy can lead to new in­tru­sions into the peo­ple’s pri­vacy. The use of fa­cial recognition tech­nol­ogy by a gov­ern­ment for mass sur­veil­lance can en­croach on demo­cratic free­doms. “We be­lieve all three of these problems should be ad­dressed through leg­is­la­tion,” Smith said.

“When com­bined with ubiq­ui­tous cam­eras and mas­sive com­put­ing power and stor­age in the cloud, a gov­ern­ment could use fa­cial recognition tech­nol­ogy to en­able con­tin­u­ous sur­veil­lance of spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als,” he added.

“This use of fa­cial recognition tech­nol­ogy could un­leash mass sur­veil­lance on an un­prece­dented scale,” he warned.

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