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Hypocrites: Microsoft’s president says we need to regulate facial recognition tech before ‘the year 2024 looks like the book “1984”’

Facial recognition software is already prevalent in a lot of mainstream technology products. You may even use a few of them, like Facebook photo tagging, Snapchat or Instagram face filters, or the iPhone’s Face ID, which uses facial recognition to unlock the phone.

Future uses of the technology may not be so harmless.

Microsoft President Brad Smith laid out a frightening scenario in which facial recognition technology, if left unchecked, could totally change the way we live and what privacy people are able to retain, if any.

“It potentially means every time you walk into a store, a retailer knows when you were in there last, what good you picked out, what you purchased,” he said at Web Summit, a tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday. “I think even that frankly pales in comparison to what it could do to relationships between individuals and the state.”

Smith went on to describe what sounds like a total doomsday scenario for facial recognition technology, a scenario on par with the idea that automation will replace all jobs, or Elon Musk’s projected AI apocalypse. Here’s Smith’s concern:

For the first time, the world is on the threshold of technology that would give a government the ability to follow anyone anywhere, and everyone everywhere. It could know exactly where you are going, where you have been and where you were yesterday as well. And this has profound potential ramifications for even just the fundamental civil liberties on which democratic societies rely. Before we wake up and find that the year 2024 looks like the book “1984,” let’s figure out what kind of world we want to create, and what are the safeguards and what are the limitations of both companies and governments for the use of this technology.

Microsoft does build facial recognition technology, and Smith has been public in the past about the need for regulation. Facebook and Apple do, too. Amazon sells its facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies, an arrangement that has angered some of the company’s employees who are worried about how it’s used for surveillance purposes.