Microsoft said today that it will not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States, at least until there is a federal law to regulate the technology.
Microsoft's president Brad Smith said any legislation on facial recognition should be firmly grounded in human rights.
"We need Congress to act, not just tech companies alone," Smith said at a virtual Washington Post event.
Some context: Microsoft's decision adds to the pressure on lawmakers to respond to the protests focusing on racial injustice and police brutality. Studies have shown that commercial facial recognition algorithms frequently misidentify minorities and people of color.
Technology companies have rapidly expanded their partnerships with law enforcement agencies in recent years, providing them with sophisticated surveillance tools that have raised concerns about citizen privacy and discrimination.
Amazon's Ring subsidiary, for instance, has partnerships with more than 1,300 police forces in the US. The company said Wednesday that it will put a one-year hold on sales of its facial recognition technology to law enforcement.
Earlier this week, IBM said in a letter to Congress that it will no longer sell general purpose facial recognition services, and said in a separate statement that it would no longer invest in research and development of the technology.
Civil liberties advocates welcomed Microsoft's announcement, but called for more.
"We also urge these companies to work to forever shut the door on America's sordid chapter of over-policing of Black and Brown communities, including the surveillance technologies that disproportionately harm them," said Matt Cagle, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.