Legislation is needed on facial recognition technology. Otherwise, the world threatens to change into a Nineteen Eighty-Four-like scenario that George Orwell sketched so beautifully in his 1949 dystopia. Microsofts calls in Brad Smith during the WebSummit in Lisbon, Portugal.

The way in which companies develop and apply facial recognition technology can have a major impact on the privacy of the average individual. It potentially means that every time you walk into a store, an entrepreneur knows when you were last there, what goods you picked up and what you bought, Smith told Recode. But I believe that this pales in comparison with what the technology could do to the relationship between individuals and the state.

Regulating industry

Despite the fact that Microsoft has also developed facial recognition technology, Smith thinks it would be good to regulate the industry. This is the most effective way of preventing things from getting out of hand and companies from abusing their power. Of course, Smith understands that in certain situations, it is a useful technique for tracing criminals and identifying illegal activities, for example. At the same time, he believes that legislation is needed to prevent this type of application from gaining the upper hand.

For the first time, the world is on the threshold of a technology that gives a government the ability to follow anyone anywhere, Smith says. The consequences for fundamental civil rights can be great, especially for democratic societies. Before we find ourselves in 2024 and discover that it’s very much like 1984, we all need to think about the world we want to live in, Smith says.

How far the technology can go was already evident in China. In 2020, the communist country will roll out a social score, in which citizens will judge the citizens on their behaviour. People who, for example, spend a lot of money on useless products and show bad behaviour, such as smoking in places where this is not allowed, receive penalty points. This can have major consequences, such as job losses, education and even travel opportunities. People with high scores, on the other hand, receive rewards in the form of lower electricity bills and more opportunities to travel.

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