Microsoft claims its facial recognition technology just got a little less awful. Earlier this year, a study by MIT researchers found that tools from IBM, Microsoft, and Chinese company Megvii could correctly identify light-skinned men with 99-percent accuracy. But it incorrectly identified darker-skinned women as often as one-third of the time. Now imagine a computer incorrectly flagging an image at an airport or in a police database, and you can see how dangerous those errors could be. Microsoft's software performed poorly in the study.
The use of facial recognition by police and other law enforcement is proving divisive, with Verdict readers split over its use. In a poll on Verdict that saw responses from 644 readers between 24 January and 7 February, the majority said they were not happy with the use of facial recognition by police, but only by a slim margin. The response comes as the EU is considering a ban on the use of facial recognition until the technology reaches a greater stage of maturity. A draft white paper, which was first published by the news website EURACTIV in January, showed that a temporary ban was being considered by the European Commission. It proposed that "use of facial recognition technology by private or public actors in public spaces would be prohibited for a definite period (e.g.
Facial recognition technology used by the UK police is making thousands of mistakes - and now there could be legal repercussions. Civil liberties group, Big Brother Watch, has teamed up with Baroness Jenny Jones to ask the government and the Met to stop using the technology. They claim the use of facial recognition has proven to be'dangerously authoritarian', inaccurate and a breach if rights protecting privacy and freedom of expression. If their request is rejected, the group says it will take the case to court in what will be the first legal challenge of its kind. South Wales Police, London's Met and Leicestershire are all trialling automated facial recognition systems in public places to identify wanted criminals.
Amazon followed suit a couple of days later putting a temporary, year-long ban on facial recognition contracts with American police departments. Finally, Microsoft said that they, too, would no longer sell facial recognition to American police departments without federal regulation. Details aside, these statements all share the implicit confession of the danger that facial recognition poses to human rights and democracy. This self-containment coming out of Big Tech does not, however, address these very same dangers that exist in the EU. Although these technologies are used within EU member states as well, the decisions from IBM, Amazon and Microsoft only apply to the American context.