Microsoft has taken a firm and respectable stance regarding facial recognition technology. The company has called for concise regulation of the tech and has refused to work with companies thought to have shared facial data. So, you can color me surprised Microsoft is among a list of tech giants accused of using faces without permission.
Firstly, let's be clear that Microsoft is not said to have sold facial data. However, alongside Google and Amazon, the company is being sued by two Illinois resident who say the company used their faces without consent.
Specifically, the tech giants are accused of using the faces of Tim Janecyk and Steven Vance to help train their facial recognition technology.
While the technology is wonderful, it does not create itself. To ensure high quality facial recognition capabilities, companies must use real people's faces to train the AI. This has stirred controversy because tech companies use faces from public images on the web.
According to Janecyk and Vance, their faces appeared in the “Diversity in Faces” databased without consent. This database is managed by IBM and was used by Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. Both are now seeking a class action against the company, stating it violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
“Defendant Microsoft never advised or informed Plaintiff Vance or his legal authorized representative in writing: (a) that it collected, stored and used Plaintiff Vance's biometric identifiers and information; or (b) of the specific purpose and length of term for which Plaintiff Vance's biometric identifiers and information were being collected, stored and used,” the lawsuit against Microsoft reads.
“Defendant Microsoft violated BIPA by collecting and obtaining individuals' biometric identifiers and information, including the biometric identifiers and information of Plaintiffs and Class Members, without providing the requisite written information and without obtaining the requisite written releases.”
So far, Microsoft is the only of the named companies to offer comment on the lawsuit. Redmond says it is looking into the situation and is “taking privacy seriously”.