The trio of tech giants is stepping back from law-enforcement use of systems that have faced criticism for incorrectly identifying people with darker skin. Ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd have focused attention on racial injustice in the U.S. and how police use technology to track people.
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But while all three companies are known for their work in developing artificial intelligence, including face recognition software, none is a major player in selling such technology to police. Smith said Thursday that Microsoft currently doesn't sell its face recognition software to any U.S. police departments.
He didn't say if that includes federal law enforcement agencies or police forces outside the U.S. Several other companies that are less well known dominate the market for government facial recognition contracts in the U.S., including Tokyo-based NEC and the European companies Idemia and Gemalto.
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.
If all of the responsible companies in the country cede this market to those that are not prepared to take a stand, we won't necessarily serve the national interest or the lives of the black and African American people of this nation well," Smith said. "We need Congress to act, not just tech companies alone.