Microsoft says it denied a California law enforcement request to use its facial recognition tech over bias concerns, but it has sold the tech to a US prison (James Vincent/The Verge)

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Microsoft has said it turned down a request from law enforcement in California to use its facial recognition technology in police body cameras and cars, reports Reuters.

Speaking at an event at Stanford University, Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company was concerned that the technology would disproportionately affect women and minorities. Past research has shown that because facial recognition technology is trained primarily on white and male faces, it has higher error rates for other individuals.

“Anytime they pulled anyone over, they wanted to run a face scan,” said Smith of the unnamed law enforcement agency. “We said this technology is not your answer.”

Facial recognition has become a controversial topic for tech companies in recent years, partly because of its biases, but also its potential for authoritarian surveillance.

Amazon has been repeatedly criticized for selling the technology to law enforcement, and faced pushback from both employees and shareholders. Google, meanwhile, says it refuses to sell facial recognition services altogether due to their potential for abuse.

Microsoft has been one of the loudest voices in this debate, repeatedly calling for federal regulation. “‘Move fast and break things’ became something of a mantra in Silicon Valley earlier