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Microsoft and Alphabet chiefs disagree over facial recognition ban

Simulation of security camera with facial recognition
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Following the news that the European Commission is considering a temporary ban on facial recognition technology, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has voiced his support for the new measure while Microsoft President Brad Smith believes that banning it outright may not be the best move.

At a recent conference in Brussels organized by the think tank Bruegel, Pichai explained that facial recognition regulation should happen sooner rather than later, saying:

“I think it is important that governments and regulations tackle it sooner rather than later and give a framework for it. It can be immediate but maybe there’s a waiting period before we really think about how it’s being used. It’s up to governments to chart the course.”

Benefits of facial recognition

While Pichai cited the possibility that facial recognition could be used for nefarious purposes as his reason for supporting the EU's ban, Smith stressed that the technology can be used for good and gave the example of NGOs using it to help find missing children, saying:

“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. The second thing I would say is you don’t ban it if you actually believe there is a reasonable alternative that will enable us to, say, address this problem with a scalpel instead of a meat cleaver.”

According to Smith, it is important to first identify problems and then create rules to ensure that the technology would not be used for mass surveillance as opposed to banning facial recognition outright.

The European Commission has already drafted a white paper on its plans to temporarily ban facial recognition for three to five years in order to figure out how to prevent the technology from being abused. The paper is expected to be published in February and at that time we'll have a better idea as to the specifics and whether or not other countries will follow suit.

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Via Reuters