Trump Retweets Call for Microsoft Ban From Federal Contracts

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump retweeted a post from his former director of national intelligence that called for barring Microsoft Corp. from federal government contracts over its refusal to sell facial recognition software to U.S. police departments until there are laws governing use of the technology.

“They should now be barred from federal government contracts - there should be consequences for not selling technology to police departments,” Trump’s former Acting DNI Richard Grenell tweeted.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Microsoft rose 2.5% to $190.97 at 9:49 a.m. in New York Friday.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said Thursday that the company won’t sell facial recognition software to U.S. police departments until there are laws in place governing the use of such technology, making the pledge a day after rival Inc. paused similar usage for a year.

Smith, who is also the company’s chief legal officer, said Microsoft doesn’t currently supply the artificial intelligence software for facial recognition to any U.S. police departments. He spoke via video on Thursday at a Washington Post virtual conference that was posted to Twitter.

“This is a moment in time that really calls on us to listen more, to learn more and most importantly to do more,” he said. “Given that, we’ve decided we will not sell facial recognition to police departments in the U.S. until we have a national law in place grounded in human rights that will govern this technology.”

Microsoft’s announcement follows International Business Machines Corp. decision Monday to exit the facial recognition market, and Amazon’s move Wednesday to put in place a one-year pause on sales to police departments. The moves come in the midst of protests about law enforcement brutality and bias after a police officer killed an unarmed black man, George Floyd. Facial recognition technology has been shown in experiments to sometimes have difficulty identifying people with darker skin.

Amazon is already embroiled in a battle with the Trump administration over the Pentagon’s decision to choose Microsoft Corp. for a cloud contract worth as much as $10 billion.

The company sued in November in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, alleging it lost the cloud deal because Trump saw Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos as his “political enemy.” Trump has long been critical of Bezos over everything from Amazon’s shipping rates with the Post Office to his ownership of the Washington Post.

Grenell, who was replaced as DNI once John Ratcliffe was sworn in late last month, is currently serving as U.S. envoy for talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

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