Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls for building AI responsibly

Alfred Osborne
December 9, 2018

Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues.

He said Microsoft would begin adopting these principles itself while urging other tech firms to do the same.

To set an example, Microsoft is publishing and adopting six principles for the ethical development of facial recognition technologies.

Redmond's chief lawyer Brad Smith told Fox Business Network that the company won't shy away from providing the United States with "our best technology" and that it's Microsoft's patriotic duty to do so.

Microsoft President Brad Smith paints an Orwellian picture of the future in his latest call for government regulation of facial-recognition technology. "In particular, we don't believe that the world will be best served by a commercial race to the bottom, with tech companies forced to choose between social responsibility and market success", he writes. "There is one potential use for facial recognition technology that could put our fundamental freedoms at risk", he said. In countries like India, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been used for positive benefit, Smith wrote.

As facial recognition technology advances, Microsoft is anxious about how it could be taken advantage of. "And a solid floor requires that we ensure that this technology, and the organizations that develop and use it, are governed by the rule of law", said Smith.

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There's rising concern over the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement, border security, the military and beyond. In addition, it will provide new materials and training resources to promote the use of facial recognition in a responsible manner.

"Microsoft thinks unchecked facial recognition could lead to biased decisions, lost privacy, and harm to democratic freedoms". "We are committed to working closely with customers in the public and private sectors alike", Smith wrote. AI Now researchers warn of "affect recognition", a proposed ability of AI-powered facial recognition that is capable of reading people's emotions and potentially manipulating them, all using the power of machine learning.

To add some teeth to the effort, Smith said that Microsoft will be adding these conditions to its terms of service for any products or services that incorporate facial recognition.

Smith argues this tactic should only be allowed with a court order, or in emergency, such as the risk of death or serious injury to a person.

Smith also advocated for legislation regarding the deployment of facial recognition technology, suggesting lawmakers focus on issues such as bias, privacy and mass surveillance. Analysts estimate China's 200 million surveillance cameras will grow to 300 million in the next two years as tech companies beef up surveillance offerings. Microsoft and others have vowed to work on the problem, and Microsoft notes that its own Face API system has become more accurate at identifying people. There are three problems that governments need to address, he said.

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