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Facial Recognition Technology: What Amazon And Microsoft Have To Say?

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Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) cloud service division, said federal regulation could provide guidance on how the company's controversial facial recognition technology should be used.

Amazon Rekognition, the company's facial recognition system, has been accused of threatening civil and privacy rights. Amazon's shareholders and privacy activists have urged the company to ban sales of the technology to government agencies, saying the facial recognition software could be utilized to violate human rights.

Doubts have also been raised about the software's efficiency to properly identify faces of black and minority ethnic people, as the software is often trained on predominantly white faces. The UK Police too have noted that "ethnicity can have an impact on the technology's search accuracy."

However, Amazon claimed that Rekognition can identify people in real-time by instantaneously searching databases containing tens of millions of faces. The company has also said it is not aware of any reported misuse of Rekognition by its law enforcement customers.

On Monday, Jassy said that federal regulation would be able to provide guidance on how the technology should or should not be used.

"I wish they'd hurry up. ... Otherwise, you'll have 50 different laws in 50 different states," Jassy told Recode's Kara Swisher in an interview at Recode's Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Jassy added that Amazon would continue to sell the facial recognition software to government agencies.

Further, Jassy told Recode said that if the U.S. government were to force the company to spin off Amazon Web Services as a separate company, then Amazon would have to comply. However, he does not see any major advantages from such a spin-off.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) President Brad Smith believes that while federal regulation is not likely to occur before 2021, more cities and states will begin to pass laws to oversee the use of facial recognition technology.

At Fortune's annual CEO Initiative in New York City, Smith noted that Microsoft has declined to supply facial recognition software to law enforcement in California as the technology is still experimental. He also noted that people of color could be wrongfully arrested if the technology is deployed.

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