Microsoft is banning police in the U.S. from using its AI service for facial recognition

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella.
Photo: Ethan Miller (Getty Images)

Microsoft is banning the use of its artificial intelligence service for facial recognition “by or for” police departments in the United States.

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In its updated code of conduct for its Azure OpenAI Service, the company also said integrations with the service must not be used for real-time facial recognition technology used by “any law enforcement globally,” including on mobile cameras and dash-mounted cameras, “to attempt to identify individual in uncontrolled, ‘in the wild’ environments,” or “to attempt to identify individuals present in a database of suspects or prior inmates.”

Azure OpenAI Service gives enterprise customers access to OpenAI’s large language models (LLMs). The service is fully managed by Microsoft and limited to customers which already have a partnership with the company, are using it for lower risk cases, and which are focused on mitigations.

Last week, Axon, a company which manufactures technology and weapons including for law enforcement, launched an AI-powered software program allowing police to automate reports. The product, called Draft One, is a “revolutionary new software product that drafts high-quality police report narratives in seconds.” Axon said Draft One is powered by OpenAI’s most powerful LLM, GPT-4, and can write reports from auto-transcribing audio from police body cameras sold by the company.

However, critics of the tool said it could be problematic considering AI has issues with “hallucinating” — or making up false or nonsensical information — and can be used to absolve police of legal responsibilities if a report includes inaccurate information.

Dave Maass, surveillance technologies investigations director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Forbes Draft One is “kind of a nightmare.” He added that police are not trained to use AI-powered tools, and therefore might not understand the scope of the technology.

It is not clear if Microsoft’s updated code of conduct is related to Axon’s product release.

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Britney Nguyen