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Artificial intelligence

A new face recognition privacy bill would give us more control over our data

March 15, 2019

Microsoft is backing a new proposed law introduced by two US Senators that will limit how tech firms use the controversial technology.

What it contains: The Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act of 2019 would ban users of commercial face recognition technology from collecting and sharing data for identifying or tracking consumers without their consent. Introduced by Senators Brian Schatz and Roy Blunt, it would require companies to explicitly tell people when they’re collecting face recognition data, and get their consent to share it with anyone else. The bill clearly defines data controllers and processors. It’s a similar sort of model to data protection laws in the European Union, but targeted to one specific technology. 

Microsoft's backing: Its president, Brad Smith, said face recognition needs to be regulated “to protect against acts of bias and discrimination, preserve consumer privacy, and uphold our basic democratic freedoms,” and promised to work with legislators. It’s a smart move from the company to pitch itself as an ally in the push to regulate face recognition. 

Addressing bias: The law would also require third-party testing and human review of face recognition software before it’s deployed, to address accuracy and bias and avoid harmful uses.

However: Government uses of the technology would be exempt from regulation in the bill’s current wording.

Timely: Calls to regulate face recognition technology have been growing in recent months, as it becomes more advanced and embedded into people’s daily lives.

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