About two months after civil liberties organizations demanded that Amazon stop providing governments with facial recognition services, Microsoft is asking for government regulation of the technology. The tech company is also calling for laws to guide acceptable use, Reuters reported.
"We believe Congress should create a bipartisan expert commission to assess the best way to regulate the use of facial recognition technology in the United States," Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a post on Microsoft’s website. “The purpose of such a commission should include advice to Congress on what types of new laws and regulations are needed, as well as stronger practices to ensure proper congressional oversight of this technology across the executive branch.”
The news comes as Democratic Representatives Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri were demanding answers from Amazon as to how its facial recognition technology, dubbed Rekognition, is being used by law enforcement around the country. The Intercept, citing a letter sent in May to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, reported that lawmakers want detailed information, with 12 specific requests for information on Amazon’s facial recognition technology, including how it could be used by law enforcement agencies and the government to engage in discrimination based on race and gender.
Ellison wants to have some type of congressional oversight over Amazon a few months after lawmakers went after Facebook. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its affiliates, along with 35 other civil liberties groups, had expressed concerns about how Amazon markets the technology to law enforcement in a public letter. The ACLU, in conjunction with the open letter, released public records that shine a light on the relationship Amazon has with law enforcement agencies in Florida and Oregon, noted The Intercept.
Two police departments in those states use the technology. Ellison and Cleaver want to know which other law enforcement agencies are using the software, as well as which private companies create tools for it. They are also seeking information on any independent audit that Amazon Web Services may have undergone to determine whether there are errors or bias in the software.