Microsoft denies facial recognition request from Calif. law enforcement

Microsoft’s president said Tuesday that the company turned down a request from a California law enforcement agency to install the company’s facial recognition technology in officers’ cars and body cameras because of human rights concerns.

Microsoft President Brad Smith, speaking at a Stanford University conference on artificial intelligence technology, said the company based its decision on the fact that the artificial intelligence technology has primarily been trained on white and male images, sparking concerns the technology could lead to disproportionate targeting of women and minorities, according to Reuters.


Smith added that the unspecified agency wanted to run a facial scan “anytime they pulled anyone over,” according to Reuters. Microsoft considered the request and “we said this technology is not your answer,” Smith said.

The company also walked away from a deal to add the technology to surveillance cameras in an unnamed country’s capital city, citing its poor ratings from the nonprofit Freedom House, which monitors civil liberties.

Microsoft did agree to provide the facial recognition technology to an unnamed American prison after determining its use would be limited and would improve safety in the facility.

Smith has said facial recognition technology needs stricter regulations, warning Tuesday that without them, developing the technology will become a “race to the bottom,” according to Reuters.

This week, The New York Times reported the Chinese government is using facial recognition technology to surveil the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority. Nearly two dozen Chinese police departments requested the technology last year alone, according to the report.