Microsoft’s ban on facial recognition technology may not be voluntary but under outside pressure

On Thursday, Microsoft announced that it would not sell facial recognition technology to police departments until a federal law is in place. This tough stance has undoubtedly been widely praised by the American public, but according to emails disclosed bymedia buzzfeed, Microsoft’s ban on facial recognition technology may have been announced not because of a “human rights” perspective, but by external pressure.

Microsoft's ban on facial recognition technology may not be voluntary but under outside pressure

Despite microsoft’s recent announcement that it would not sell its facial recognition technology to the government, microsoft has in fact been touting them to U.S. authorities over the past few years, most recently in 2018 when it tried to sell facial recognition technology to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the report said.

Microsoft's ban on facial recognition technology may not be voluntary but under outside pressure

Microsoft's ban on facial recognition technology may not be voluntary but under outside pressure

The documents, disclosed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), detail a conversation between Microsoft and the Federal Government at all levels about buying and selling facial recognition technology. In one of the conversations,

Yesterday and you have a very happy chat, here is my summary

I’m inviting Redmond’s Microsoft Cognitive Services Group to discuss their media services use cases. As you may know, Microsoft Azure has many of these services (translation, transcription, video processing, facial recognition, etc.) running on public Azure. Microsoft has only some services running in the Microsoft Azure Government (MAG) cloud, and they are looking at what other services need to transition to MAG.

They are also working on what needs to be developed. The big news is that MAG is FISMA-FEDRAMP High, like Firebird, so we can do law enforcement-sensitive things in there. I’m starting a pilot project to start thinking about various sample recordings (video and audio) that we can use to perform these services. Maybe there’s some, less sensitive information that we can use?

Although the official’s name was removed for security reasons, microsoft should be the DEA’s chief technology officer. In November 2017, DEA representatives went to Microsoft’s Reston, Virginia, office to demonstrate in person its Azure-based cognitive services, including facial recognition technology, with a focus on “Face API and the development of a face database.”

Despite Microsoft’s recent statements about its position on the sale of facial recognition technology, the information disclosed so far suggests that it did sign contracts with several U.S. law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Defense (DoD), which has caused unease among some Microsoft employees.

So far, its facial recognition technology has not entered law enforcement, as far as it can last long, it depends on the software company.