Eric Horvitz addresses a crowd at TEDx in Austin prior to his recent statements.

Microsoft Limits Sales of AI Products for Safety

According to a report in GeekWire, a top Microsoft executive said the company has turned away some customers that it worried would abuse access to AI technology.

Eric Horvitz, Microsoft Research scientist and leader, said the company avoided working with some questionable clients because of concerns. He spoke at the K&L Gates Conference on Ethics & AI at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Significant sales have been cut off,” Horvitz said, though he didn’t name the potential clients.

“Over the past year or so, the company has been providing government and industry customers with a cloud-based suite of Microsoft Cognitive Services, including face recognition and emotion recognition,” according to the story by Alan Boyle in GeekWire.

Horvitz referred to decisions by Aether, an acronym for “AI and ethics in engineering and research,” which is Microsoft’s overall AI ethical oversight committee. “It’s been an intensive effort … and I’m happy to say that this committee has teeth,” Horvitz said.

Microsoft issued a statement in response to questions about Horvitz’s remarks: “We believe it is very important to develop and deploy AI in a responsible, trusted and ethical manner. Microsoft created the Aether committee to identify, study and recommend policies, procedures, and best practices on questions, challenges, and opportunities coming to the fore on influences of AI on people and society.”