Microsoft pulls out of AnyVision investment following surveillance controversy

Microsoft pulls out of AnyVision investment following surveillance controversy

Microsoft Friday stated it might sell its stake in AnyVision, an Israeli facial recognition firm, and stated it no longer would make minority finances in firms that sell the disputed technology.

The decision marks a policy change for the Redmond, Washington-based software maker, which has aimed to shape how the technology industry approaches facial recognition.

AnyVision had announced a $74 million investment in June from a group including Microsoft's venture capital arm.

Microsoft asked Holder and a team of lawyers to investigate the claims in October, to determine whether AnyVision's technology applications comply with Microsoft's ethical principles against using facial recognition for mass surveillance. AnyVision had been blamed for utilizing facial recognition to surveil Palestinians around the West Bank, repudiating Microsoft's guarantee to stay away from any employments of the tech that encroached on democratic freedoms.

Microsoft now says an independent investigation led by the former U.S. attorney general.

While AnyVision wasn't implicated by the report for powering a mass surveillance programme in the West Bank and as such does not contravene the pledge the startup signed with M12, pressure was however mounting from both Palestinian, Jewish and American authorities to drop the startup. Microsoft and AnyVision jointly announced Friday that the audit didn't substantiate any breach of Microsoft's principles.


However, the company's chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said past year that Microsoft would never sell facial recognition for surveillance purposes, and Smith said he is denied access to the technology by law enforcement over concerns that will contribute to civil and human rights. rights abuses.

Covington says that it interviewed AnyVision employees and third parties, account records, and other documents as part of its investigation.

"Microsoft's focus has shifted to commercial relationships that afford Microsoft greater oversight and control over the use of sensitive technologies", the company said a statement. Even so, Microsoft said that as a result of the probe it chose to exit the business of investing in facial recognition startups altogether.

Microsoft has been vocal about setting limits on facial recognition, and it's now backing that up with its monetary help - or deficiency in that department.

Microsoft did not have a timeline to share for when the divestment will occur and who will buy its stake, a spokesman said.

"We and other tech companies need to start creating safeguards to address facial recognition technology", Mr Smith said.

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