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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai Backs Temporary Ban On Facial-Recognition

The EU’s proposal for a temporary ban on facial-recognition technology won backing from Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai on Monday but got a cool response from Microsoft President Brad Smith.

While Pichai cited the possibility that the technology could be used for nefarious purposes as a reason for a moratorium, Smith said a ban was akin to using a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel to solve potential problems.

“It can be immediate but maybe there’s a waiting period before we really think about how it’s being used,” he said. “It’s up to governments to chart the course” for the use of such technology.

Smith, who is also Microsoft’s chief legal officer, however cited the benefits of facial recognition technology in some instances such as NGOs using it to find 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,” Smith said.

Smith said it was important to first identify problems and then craft rules to ensure that the technology would not be used for mass surveillance.

The European Commission is taking a tougher line on artificial intelligence (AI) than the United States that would strengthen existing regulations on privacy and data rights, according to a proposal paper seen by Reuters.

Part of this includes a moratorium of up to five years on using facial recognition technology in public areas, to give the EU time to work out how to prevent abuses, the paper said.

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