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Microsoft & Google Clash Over Facial Recognition Tech

Google’s parent company Alphabet and Microsoft have expressed conflicting views on the European Commission’s latest proposal for a temporary ban on facial-recognition technology.

The ban won support from Alphabet and Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai on Monday but was criticised by Microsoft President and chief legal officer Brad Smith, who likened the move to using a meat clever instead of a scalpel.

‘I think it is important that governments and regulations tackle it sooner rather than later and give a framework for it,’ Pichai told a conference in Brussels organized by think-tank Bruegel.

‘It can be immediate but maybe there’s a waiting period before we really think about how it’s being used,’ he said.

Alphabet and Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Pichai also supported the discretion of governments to ‘chart the course’ for the use of such technology.

Smith, on the other hand, referenced the advantages of facial recognition technology in some circumstances – such as NGOs using it to identify missing children.

‘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,’ he said.

‘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.’

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft Brad Smith (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Smith said it was important to identify problems first and then create rules and regulation to ensure the technology would not be used for malice or mass surveillance.

‘There is only one way at the end of the day to make technology better and that is to use it,’ he said.

The European Commission is taking a tougher stance on artificial intelligence (AI) than the United States, in a move that would strengthen existing regulations on data rights and privacy, Reuters reports, after seeing a proposal paper.

According to the publication, part of this proposal includes a moratorium of up to five years on using facial recognition technology in public spaces, to give the EU time to protect the public from abuses.

Google Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sundar Pichai (EPA/RAJAT GUPTA)

But despite these concerns, Pichai encouraged regulators to take a ‘proportional approach’ when drafting regulations – just days before the Commission is due to publish the proposals.

Regulators have long struggled to regulate and govern artificial intelligence, encouraging innovation yet attempting to curb potential misuse.

Pichai doesn’t dispute the need for artificial intelligence to be regulated but said. rulemakers should tread carefully.

One area of great concern is ‘deepfakes,’ a video or audio clip that are manipulated using artificial intelligence.

Recent examples of deepfakes has seen Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s image manipulated into a video where he discusses taking over the world.

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