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微软呼吁政府加强对面部识别技术的监管,称可能存在滥用

据《华尔街日报》报道,微软正在敦促全球各地政府在明年出台针对面部识别技术的监管条例。这些条例需要对面部识别技术的准确性有独立评判标准,并禁止在法院许可的范围外对特定对象进行持续监控。

在面部识别领域,Facebook、谷歌等科技巨头正面临着来自立法者和其他人对其隐私做法的强烈反对,微软试图推动对新兴技术的监管可能是为了避免同样的境地。

事实上,微软从很早开始就在呼吁政府加强相关的监管措施,今年7月,微软表示,如果少数公司采用新标准而竞争对手却忽视它们,那么改变就不可能发生。

周四,微软总裁兼首席法务官Brad Smith表示,新规定一再拖延可能会加剧社会问题。“商业竞争让社会陷入低谷,科技公司不得不在社会责任与市场成功之间做出抉择。”

Brad Smith在博文中列出了面部识别技术的优点,包括识别失踪儿童。微软开发了一款名为Face的产品,其客户包括Uber,司机需要在使用APP时通过面部识别验证自己的身份,然后才能开始搭乘乘客。

此外,他还强调了政府应该关注立法的三个方面:种族和性别歧视、隐私以及大规模政府监督。Smith认为,当使用面部识别技术时,新法律应该通知并获取用户同意,同时政府需要迅速采取行动,以解决出现的滥用问题。

但是针对微软是否会向中国出售面部识别技术,Brad Smith拒绝置评。

不得不承认,面部识别技术的迅速普及背后,确实存在隐忧。人工智能技术不断进步的背后,矛盾也逐渐深化。

今年,数十家民权组织呼吁亚马逊停止向执法机构出售其面部识别技术。上周,亚马逊网络服务公司首席执行官Andy Jassy称,公司没有看到任何滥用这项技术的行为。他也没有呼吁监管,只是说“各国必须自己决定规则”。

Brad Smith则认为,如果一家企业因为认识到面部识别技术的某些用途可能会危害到人权,并及时停止了这项业务,但它的竞争对手却能够继续获得更多的订单时,人权再一次处于危险的境地,且将市场推向与社会责任感背道而驰的方向。

Microsoft Corp.is urging governments world-wide to enact regulation of facial-recognition technology next year that requires independent assessment of accuracy and bias and prohibits ongoing surveillance of specific people without a court order.

The technology giant’s push to police the emerging technology comes as rivals including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, face increasing backlash over their privacy practices from lawmakers and others.

Microsoft, which competes with both companies as well as Amazon.com Inc. in the emerging market for facial-recognition products, but has been vocal in calling for government regulation of the technology, with a blog post in July arguing that change couldn’t happen if a few companies adopt new standards while rivals ignore them.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, dialed up the urgency on Thursday, arguing that delays to enacting new rules could “exacerbate societal issues.” Society is ill-served “by a commercial race to the bottom, with tech companies forced to choose between social responsibility and market success,” he wrote in a blog post.

Mr. Smith also was scheduled to speak about Microsoft’s position Thursday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., the same day a group of tech leaders from Microsoft and other companies visited the White House for a summit on issues including artificial intelligence.

Microsoft’s advocacy of regulation underlines the ambivalence over powerful new technologies enabled by advances in AI. Adoption of facial recognition is proceeding quickly—especially in China, where the government uses it extensively for surveillance—stirring concerns about potential misuse.

Mr. Smith declined to say if Microsoft would sell facial-recognition technology to China.

This year, dozens of civil-rights organizations called on Amazon to stop selling its facial-recognition technology to law-enforcement organizations. Asked about those concerns at a press conference last week, Andy Jassy, chief executive of Amazon Web Services, said the company hasn’t seen any abuses of the technology. He stopped short of calling for regulation, saying “countries themselves have to decide” on rules.

In his blog post, Mr. Smith listed benefits of facial-recognition including identifying missing children. Microsoft’s product, called Face, is used by customers such as Uber Technologies Inc., whose drivers take selfies to verify their identity when they launch the app to start picking up passengers.

But Mr. Smith highlighted three areas where governments should focus legislation: racial and gender bias, privacy and mass government surveillance. He cited George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984,” in which a government tracks citizens’ every movement, as a cautionary tale.

“Today technology makes that type of future possible,” Mr. Smith wrote.

He said that new laws should notify people—and get their consent—when facial-recognition technology is being used. And he said that governments need to continue to move quickly to address abuses that arise.

He acknowledged that Microsoft’s interests in regulating the technology are competitive as well.

“If a responsible company turns down business because it regards a particular use of facial recognition as likely to increase discrimination or abuse human rights, and then it sees its competitors go forward and gain those sales, you not only put people’s rights at risk, you risk tipping the market towards an approach that is less socially responsible,” Mr. Smith said in an interview.

Microsoft has discussed its ideas for legislation with both federal and state lawmakers, though Mr. Smith declined to name them. It also has talked about the need for regulation with its rivals and says he is “optimistic” they will join Microsoft.

Others calling for regulation of facial-recognition include rights advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the AI Now Institute. In a report published Thursday, AI Now echoed Microsoft’s calls for federal laws to provide oversight and transparency into the use of facial recognition.

Tech giants have adopted ethical principles around artificial intelligence, such as Google’s pledge earlier this year not to use AI in military weapons. Those principles were crafted to avoid missteps in developing new technology that could have harmful side effects. But they don’t go far in enough in holding large companies accountable, said AI Now co-founder Meredith Whittaker.

“It is great these companies are realizing they have a responsibility to ethical conduct,” said Ms. Whitaker, who also leads a research group at Google. But company-issued guidelines “are effectively promises by these corporations, on their own terms.”

AI Now, whose other co-founder is a Microsoft researcher, operates independently from those companies.

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