Microsoft has decided to end investments in facial recognition firms after AnyVision controversy related to secret surveillance on the West Bank.
Microsoft has said that the company will no longer invest in third party companies that are involved in developing facial recognition apps. The company has taken this decision following the controversy regarding AnyVision facial recognition company, which is based in Israel. The human rights activists and critics have alleged the company to involve in a nonitoring program throughout the West Bank. According to a report of NBC News, which is revealing the relationship of the Israel based company with the government, it was said that Microsoft had invested heavily in Israel based facial recognition startup. The Israel based AnyVision is using its technology to help the government of Israel to surveil the West Bank and Palestinians living through the area. Further, the report said that while doing so, the tech giant has broken its public pledge of avoiding the use of technology if it is invading the democratic rights.
It is worth noting here that AnyVision around which the whole controversy revolving is based in Israel but has several offices in the UK, USA, and Singapore also. AnyVision sells facial recognition apps based on artificial intelligence technology. The facial recognition technology sold by AnyVision is helpful for the customers if they want to identify any individual or objects or the people in the Smartphone or security camera. The facial recognition app then tracks the target individuals or objects whenever they move along with providing essential data regarding them.
Meanwhile, while defending itself from the allegations, said that the company had investigated the matter by constituting an independent investigation team under General Eric Holder, the former US attorney general. The company said that no clues or proofs were found about the involvement of AnyVision in any mass surveillance program. The investigation team under General Eric at Covington & Burling, which is an international law firm, found nothing suspicious regarding the use of facial recognition technology by AnyVision in any surveillance program. The company said if they have got any proof regarding the allegations, then the company would have constituted the pledge of breach of the financial portfolio on the ethical use of facial recognition technology.
Amidst all, the tech giant has further declared that the company has started divesting from the Israel based AnyVision. The company also made it clear that in the future also it will not invest in third party companies making such technologies. The company said that such investment by it does not allow any company to involve in such practices, which is not democratic. Further, the company also made it clear in an announcement that it has shifted its focus to developing a commercial relationship with the companies so that it could exercise greater control on use of such sensitive technologies in the future. However, the company is now stopping investing in AnyVision, but it is not the only facial recognition technology that the company owns, but also it has the FaceAPI. FaceAPI is also a facial recognition technology developed by the tech giant t through its cloud platform Azure; however, the company has never used such sensitive technology for any surveillance program.
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