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Security

Microsoft rejected facial recognition sales out of concern about misuse

The company's president, Brad Smith, reportedly said Microsoft turned down a California law enforcement agency and an unnamed country.

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Microsoft is apparently being careful about who it sells its facial recognition tech to.

James Martin/CNET

Microsoft decided against selling facial recognition technology to a California law enforcement agency because it'd likely result in innocent women and minorities being held for questioning more often, a report said.

Brad Smith, the company's president, noted that the unnamed agency wanted to install the technology in officers' cars and body cameras and run face scans on anyone they pulled over, Reuters reported Tuesday. Since the tech's artificial intelligence is trained primarily on white men, there are more cases of mistaken identity with women and minorities, the company decided.

Microsoft also turned down a deal to add the tech to cameras in the capital city of a country deemed not free by the nonprofit Freedom House, Smith reportedly said at a Stanford University event about "human-centered" AI.

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By contrast, it reportedly sold the tech to a US prison because it'd be limited to that environment and improve safety.

The company declined further comment

Back in December, Smith called on governments to enact legislation requiring facial recognition tech to be tested to avoid bias. He also said authorities should be cautious in adopting it

"We must ensure that the year 2024 doesn't look like a page from the novel 1984," he wrote at the time.

First published at 4:59 a.m. PT.
Updated at 12:04 p.m. PT: Adds that Microsoft declined further comment.