Artificial Intelligence

Alphabet, Microsoft Disagree On EU’s Proposed Facial Recognition Ban

Alphabet Supports EU's Facial Recognition Ban

Microsoft President Brad Smith doesn’t agree with Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai’s backing of the EU’s call for a temporary ban on facial recognition technology, Reuters reported on Monday (Jan. 20).

Pichai pointed to the potential for “nefarious uses of facial recognition” and favors a moratorium, pending regulations. Conversely, Smith said a ban was overkill.

Smith, who is also Microsoft’s chief legal officer, pointed to instances when the technology was used by NGOs to find missing children.

“I’m really reluctant to say, ‘let’s stop people from using technology in a way that will reunite families when it can help them do it,’” Smith said. “There is only one way at the end of the day to make technology better, and that is to use it.”

At a conference in Brussels organized by think-tank Bruegel, Pichai said the creation of rules governing facial recognition technology should be tackled “sooner rather than later” and that a framework should be developed.

“It’s up to governments to chart the course,” he said. “It can be immediate, but maybe there’s a waiting period before we really think about how it’s being used.”

The EU’s proposal would establish a 3- to 5-year moratorium on using the technology in public areas until a global regulatory framework is decided, according to a white paper.

A moratorium on facial recognition is also being considered in the U.S., with temporary bans imposed in San Francisco and Oakland, California.

Smith said rules should be decided after problems are identified and that regulators should “address this problem with a scalpel instead of a meat cleaver,” he said.

Pichai said rules should be customized by sector, pointing to the different needs of medical device artificial intelligence (AI) and self-driving cars.

In a Sunday (Jan. 19) opinion column in the Financial Times, Pichai wrote about the importance of government oversight regarding AI. He emphasized that international cooperation was critical to developing workable global standards.

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