Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Amazon, Microsoft Leave Many Face-Recognition Queries Unanswered

A week after the tech giants said they won’t sell the tech to police for now, it’s not clear what’s included in the ban

San Francisco Board Of Supervisors To Vote On Banning Facial-Recognition Technology

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Amazon.com Inc. last week announced a one-year pause in use by police forces of its artificial intelligence software for recognizing faces. The next day, Microsoft Corp. said it doesn’t currently sell its similar product to U.S. police departments and won’t do so until the federal government passes a law regulating its use. Both steps came amid widespread protests against police brutality and misconduct targeted at Black people—a population on whom facial-recognition software performs poorly, leading to concerns that the technology is another vector for discrimination against people of color by law enforcement.

Other companies have gone ever further. Earlier last week, International Business Machines Corp. said it would  no longer sell general-purpose facial recognition and analysis software. Google Cloud Platform stopped selling facial recognition as an off-the-shelf service, saying in late 2018 that the company wanted to allow more time to work through “important technology and policy questions.”