Given the potential for abuse of the fast advancing facial recognition technology, governments across the world need to start adopting laws to regulate this technology in 2019, Microsoft President Brad Smith has said.
"Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues," warned Smith in a blog post on Thursday.
"The time for action has arrived," he said, adding that the industry must also exercise restraint while using this technology.
Speaking of the benefits of the technology, the Microsoft President mentioned that police in New Delhi recently trialled facial recognition technology and identified almost 3,000 missing children in four days.
Similarly, historians in the US have used the technology to identify the portraits of unknown soldiers in Civil War photographs taken in the 1860s.
Researchers successfully used facial recognition software to diagnose a rare, genetic disease in Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.
And in October, the National Australia Bank designed a proof of concept to enable customers to withdraw money from an Automatic Teller Machine using facial recognition and a PIN.
But at the same time, the potential for abuse of this technology is huge, Smith said, adding that certain uses of this technology could lead to biased decisions and discrimination.
Moreover, the widespread use of this technology can lead to new intrusions into people's privacy, he said.
"The use of facial recognition technology by a government for mass surveillance can encroach on democratic freedoms," Smith added.
"While we believe that new laws and regulations are indispensable, we also recognise that they are not a substitute for the responsibility that needs to be exercised by tech companies," he said.
Microsoft is one of several companies playing a leading role in developing facial recognition technology.
The company, Smith said, would start adopting new principles to manage the issues surrounding facial recognition technology in the first quarter of 2019.