Microsoft Seeks Government Regulation of Facial Recognition Technology

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. undermine / ˌʌndɚˈmaɪn / (v) – to slowly and secretly attack or weaken something

    We should avoid using anything that will undermine people’s safety.

  2. surveillance / sɚˈveɪləns / (n) – the monitoring of people or activities

    Companies are installing cameras in offices to keep all activities under surveillance.

  3. civilian / səˈvɪljən / (n) – a person who is not part of the military or the police

    The police implemented new security measures to protect civilians.

  4. explicit / ɪkˈsplɪsət / (adj) – stated in a clear and direct manner

    The contract’s explicit terms state that the company has access to its employees’ data.

  5. preempt / priˈɛmpt / (v) – to stop something from happening by acting first

    Governments should come up with regulations to preempt the negative effects of new technologies.


Read the text below.

Microsoft is asking the United States government to implement measures that will regulate the use of facial recognition technology.

Last July, Microsoft President Brad Smith highlighted the importance of this regulation through a blog post. According to Smith, a government regulation will stop the private and public sectors from using facial recognition to undermine people’s rights.

Facial recognition refers to a computer’s capability to identify and confirm a person’s face using photos or a camera. Many tech companies, like Amazon and Microsoft, are already developing and selling their own facial recognition software. In addition, many industries like communications and law enforcement use this software.

Microsoft’s call for regulation follows recent controversies regarding the usage and application of facial recognition technology. For instance, Amazon’s software, which can recognize up to 100 people in one photo, is being used by law enforcement agencies. Some civil rights groups raised concerns that unmonitored use of this technology could lead to unwanted surveillance of civilians.

On a similar note, Facebook has been accused of using facial recognition technology without the explicit approval of its users. This action is considered a violation of privacy rights.

Despite Microsoft’s intentions, groups pushing for civilian freedom and privacy rights doubt the tech giant’s move. This is because they question the company’s commitment to protecting users’ privacy.

Last June, Microsoft donated almost $200,000 to stop the approval of a law that would enhance the privacy rights of technology users in California. By asking the government to monitor facial recognition, Microsoft may be trying to preempt the damage that new laws may have on the company’s business.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree that governments should regulate the use of facial recognition technology? Why or why not?
• How do you think Microsoft’s competitors should respond to the company’s request? Explain.

Discussion B

• What other technologies do you think should be regulated? Why?
• What are some possible effects of regulating the use of these technologies? Discuss.