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Microsoft Calls for Facial Recognition Technology Rules Given ‘Potential for Abuse’

The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself, the Microsoft President added

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Microsoft introduced Cortana on Windows Phone four years ago. In Windows 10, it became the core search functionality.Pixabay

At a time when facial recognition technology is fast becoming a part of our lives, Microsoft has become the first tech giant to initiate a call for regulations to limit the technology that can be used for mass surveillance affecting civil liberties.

In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft President Brad Smith said a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology is the need of the hour.

“We believe US Congress should create a bipartisan expert commission to assess the best way to regulate the use of facial recognition technology in the US,” Smith said.

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 Microsoft President noted.

Several tech companies, including Microsoft, have utilised face-recognition technology in the past several years to turn time-consuming work to catalog photos into something both instantaneous and useful.

However, Microsoft has already rejected requests to deploy the technology in situations involving “human rights risks”, Smith informed.

Smith earlier called for a new digital Geneva Convention that commits governments to defending and protecting civilians from state-sponsored cyber-attacks.

“We live in a nation of laws, and the government needs to play an important role in regulating facial recognition technology.

“A world with vigorous regulation of products that are useful but potentially troubling is better than a world devoid of legal standards,” Smith suggested.

In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft President Brad Smith said a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology is the need of the hour.
In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft President Brad Smith said a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology is the need of the hour. Pixabay

The computer-assisted facial recognition can recognise people’s faces from a photo or through a camera.

This technology can catalog your photos, help reunite families or potentially be misused and abused by private companies and public authorities alike.

“Facial recognition technology raises issues that go to the heart of fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression,” Smith wrote.

In recent weeks, a group of Amazon employees objected to its contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while reiterating concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology.

IT company Salesforce’s employees have raised the same issues related to immigration authorities and these agencies’ use of their products.

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“Demands increasingly are surfacing for tech companies to limit the way government agencies use facial recognition and other technology,” Smith said.

The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself, the Microsoft President added.

Issues relating to facial recognition go well beyond the borders of the US and “it requires active engagement by governments, academics, tech companies and civil society internationally”.

“As we move forward, we’re committed to establishing a transparent set of principles for facial recognition technology that we will share with the public,” Smith informed. (IANS)

Next Story

Microsoft Tests Software Called “Election Guard” To Make Voting Secure

Microsoft tests its newly-developed software to ensure votes are not altered

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Microsoft
Microsoft has begun testing its free open-source software called "ElectionGuard"that aims to secure votes. Pixabay

Microsoft has begun testing its free open-source software called “ElectionGuard” in a small Wisconsin town in the US that aims to make voting more secure, verifiable and efficient.

“ElectionGuard” will enable end-to-end verification of elections, open results to third-party organisations for secure validation, and allow individual voters to confirm their votes were correctly counted.

It enables government entities, news outlets, human rights organisations or anyone else to build additional verifiers that independently can certify election results have been accurately counted and have not been altered, according to the company. The software would create a paper trail and assure voters their votes were properly tallied.

“On Tuesday, Fulton residents are using the technology while choosing who will join the local school board and hold a seat on Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court,” reports CNBC. With the test, the company aims to see if voters like the experience and make sure everything works fine.

Microsoft
“ElectionGuard” by Microsoft will enable end-to-end verification of election. Pixabay

In May last year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced “ElectionGuard”. According to Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust, voting system manufacturers will be free to build ElectionGuard into their systems in a variety of ways.

“These are exciting steps that enable individual voters to confirm their vote was properly counted, and assures those voters using an ElectionGuard system of the most secure and trustworthy vote in the history of the US,” Burt said in a recent blog post. “ElectionGuard” is not intended to replace paper ballots but rather to supplement and improve systems that rely on them, and it is not designed to support internet voting.

The software provides each voter a tracker with a unique code that can be used to follow an encrypted version of the vote through the entire election process via a web portal provided by election authorities.

During the process of vote-casting, voters have an optional step that allows them to confirm that their trackers and encrypted votes accurately reflect their selections. But once a vote is cast, neither the tracker nor any data provided through the web portal can be used to reveal the contents of the vote.

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After the election is complete, the tracker codes can be used by voters to confirm that their votes were not altered or tampered with and that they were properly counted, said Microsoft.

On the security front, “ElectionGuard” uses something called homomorphic encryption – which enables mathematical procedures “like counting – to be done with fully encrypted data”. (IANS)