At the moment, facial recognition is generally harmless. It speeds up our ability to tag photos, allows us to add fun effects to our Snapchat and Instagram stories, and keeps iPhones more secure through Apple’s Face ID. Microsoft President Brad Smith, however, is concerned about where this technology could be heading if not regulated properly, according to Recode.
“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,” Smith said at Web Summit, a tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal. “I think even that frankly pales in comparison to what it could do to relationships between individuals and the state.”
Of course, Smith is not the first to express concerns regarding technology growing too rapidly for us to keep up with. Tesla’s Elon Musk has laid out a potentially apocalyptic AI scenario, and the concern that robots will take over all human jobs is age-old.
Smith doesn’t seem to necessarily hinder the development of such technologies, as Microsoft has developed its on facial recognition software. He does, however, want to make sure that protective regulations are in place. “Before we wake up and find that the year 2024 looks like the book ‘1984,’” he said, “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.
American politicians have been unable to come to an agreement regarding tech regulation, though policy seems to be the most sensible area to start taking precautions.
“I don’t think the governments are yet equipped to understand [these issues], but I think they need to be,” said former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. “It really is necessary for those in the tech world … to educate the policy makers as to what this means.”