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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai says it’s ‘no question’ facial recognition tech needs regulation

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill Dec. 11, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
January 21, 2020

With several Bay Area cities moving to stop the use of facial recognition technology, the chief executive of one of the area’s tech giants has come out in favor of stricter, and more widespread regulation of such types of artificial intelligence technologies.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said there is “no question” that AI needs more regulation in order to prevent the potential negative effects of the use of technologies that include facial recognition and so-called “deepfake” videos. Pichai made his views public in an opinion piece he wrote for the Financial Times on Monday. Pichai said that as the head of Google parent company Alphabet, it is his “privilege to help to shape new technologies that we hope will be life-changing for people everywhere,” and that he believes AI is “promising.”

However, Pichai stressed that there is a dark side to AI that calls for some form of greater oversight over the technology.

“Artificial intelligence needs to be regulated,” Pichai said. “It is too important not to. The only question is how to approach it.”

Artificial intelligence is often defined as computer systems that have been developed to perform functions normally done by humans. Among the areas that AI has been touted as being used for are visual perception, speech recognition and language translation.

Last year, several Bay Area cities, including Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley and Alameda banned the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement officers on the grounds that it could violate individuals’ civil liberties.

“It doesn’t work,” Alameda Vice Mayor John Knox White said in December after the city passed its ban on facial recognition technology. “The technology is not even close to being ready for discussion.”

Pichai noted that while as CEO of Google, in 2018 the company published its own set of principles to serve as a guide for what he called “the ethical development and use” of AI. However, Pichai added that “principles that remain on paper are meaningless” and that there is a role for governments to play in setting stronger guidelines for the use of AI as its use become more public. Pichai said the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation rules on the use of personal data can serve as a gudeline for further governmental involvement in AI supervision.

“Good regulatory frameworks will consider safety, explainability, fairness and accountability to ensure we develop the right tools in the right ways,” Pichai said.

Pichai’s comments came ahead of a policy speech on AI he was scheduled to give at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels on Monday.

The rise of AI has been controversial, as such technology has been used to create deepfake videos, or videos that have been altered to make a person appear as if they are saying something they didn’t actually say. Earlier this month, Facebook said it would ban most deepfake videos from its platforms in the wake of several videos being posted that involved politicians such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, as well as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.


© 2020 The Mercury News

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