Microsoft CEO hails New Face Recognition Bill in Washington state as a major breakthrough

On Tuesday, Microsoft President Brad Smith first responded to news of the COVID-19 outbreak and then affirmed Washington state’s landmark new facial recognition law. On the same day, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill, establishing rules for the management of facial recognition software. Previously, Washington state was the first to introduce state law, even though some cities had rules in place.

Microsoft CEO hails New Face Recognition Bill in Washington state as a major breakthrough

Infographic (from: Microsoft)

“This trade-off ensures that facial recognition technology is used as a service tool to protect the public interest, while respecting the fundamental rights of the individual,” says Brad Smith.

The new law requires public bodies to regularly report on the use of their facial recognition technology and to test the fairness and accuracy of the software.

Unless an emergency is required, law enforcement agencies must obtain a search warrant before conducting an investigation using facial recognition software.

In addition, the new law requires the establishment of a task force to study the government’s use of facial recognition technology.

State law requires public entities that make decisions that produce “legal effects” with facial recognition software must ensure that results are manually reviewed, covering categories such as personal work, financial services, housing, insurance and education.

Microsoft, which sells facial recognition software, is also a major lobbyist for the new law, and Rep. Joe Nguyen has worked for the software giant.

Not everyone appreciates this, however, as Local ACLU director Jennifer Lee worries about facial recognition software that over-recognizes women and amplifies prejudice against people of color.

To that end, it called for the suspension of the implementation of the new law in order to provide an opportunity for historically targeted marginalized communities to decide how facial recognition technology should be used.

Washington state is understood to have two of the nation’s largest developers of sophisticated identification software, software giant Microsoft and e-commerce giant Amazon.