Now Microsoft is banning police from using its facial recognition tech, too


Richard Grenell, who served as the USA ambassador to Germany for two years prior to his three-month stint as acting DNI from February to May, was referring to Microsoft's decision to join a growing list of tech companies that have pledged not to sell police departments facial recognition software until there are federal laws in place to regulate its use.

The tech giant's announcement came shortly after IBM chose to completely abandon the facial recognition business, citing concerns that it could be nefariously used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

Microsoft on Thursday joined its Big Tech rivals in announcing it would bar law enforcement from using its facial recognition tools in the absence of government regulations.

Microsoft, Amazon and IBM are calling on Congress to set national rules over how police use facial recognition - something that's now being considered as part of a police reform package sparked by the protests following Floyd's death. The group's criteria are not public and Microsoft has declined to provide them, apart from a few examples of cases where it opted to turn down contracts.

Microsoft's announcement that it will condition the sale of facial recognition technology to US police departments based on human rights got a reaction from the Trump administration.

Smith's comments come after Amazon put a one-year moratorium on allowing police to use its "Rekognition" technology.

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Driven to action by country-wide protests in the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, tech giants are calling for the introduction of new regulations to prevent facial recognition contributing to discrimination.

Issues have also risen about whether facial recognition could be utilised against protesters unfairly.

He has been urging lawmakers to take a stand on facial recognition software for two years, but a bill in Microsoft's home state of Washington that borrowed heavily from his proposals has failed twice.

"The bottom line for us is to protect the human rights of people as this technology is deployed", Smith said, aligning the company with other tech giants such as IBM and Amazon, both of which have made similar pledges.

And now you can add Microsoft to the list of companies that are refusing to sell its facial recognition technology to police.