This is supposedly some sort of a statement about digital privacy? Just like the rest of the Big Tech club, Microsoft has been developing facial recognition software for some time now. As part of that effort, they had curated a vast collection of images of (mostly famous) people that could be used to test the algorithms. But now, after issuing a warning to the United States government that they need to “do a better job” of regulating facial recognition software, the entire database has disappeared as if by magic. (BBC)
Microsoft has deleted a massive database of 10 million images which was being used to train facial recognition systems, the Financial Times reports.
The database was released in 2016 and was built of online images of 100,000 well-known people. The database is believed to have been used to train a system operated by police forces and the military.
The deletion comes after Microsoft called on US politicians to do a better job of regulating recognition systems.
Microsoft told the FT the database was no longer available, because the person who curated it had now left the company.
So I guess facial recognition technology is bad according to the people who make facial recognition technology?
Even if they plan on getting out of the business (which I highly doubt because there’s money to be made in that market), what was the point of deleting this particular database? By their own admission, it was composed of pictures of artists, actors, musicians, and other public figures that they’d cribbed off the internet. Were they seriously worried that the police would fall victim to a glitch in the software and accidentally go arrest Kathy Griffin? (Not that we couldn’t get behind that, mind you.)
Meanwhile, over in England, the police have installed cameras with automated facial recognition software in a number of public spaces on a trial run. It scans the crowds and can be checked in the immediate aftermath of a crime to see if they come up with a match for any known criminals. The response? One activist group over there described facial recognition software as “arsenic in the water of democracy.” We’re hearing similar things from critics in the United States. We even have members of Congress calling for a moratorium on the use of this technology.
Seriously? The next time somebody like the Boston Marathon bomber decides to set off an explosion in a crowd, are you going to complain if the FBI is able to find them in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks? I’ll admit that it sounds like there are still a lot of flaws in the system and it needs work. (Amazon’s Rekognition software is laughably bad at correctly identifying anyone except white males.) But everything in high tech gets off to a slow start. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be perfected later. And if the software mistakenly picks you out, what are the odds that they would actually arrest you for a crime that had nothing to do with you? I get as paranoid about the government as the next person on a regular basis, but I think the backlash against this technology is a bit overdone.