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Microsoft Pulls Back Investment From Facial Recognition Startup

Microsoft Pulls Back Investment From Facial Recognition Startup

After reports emerged of AnyVision helping the Israeli government to surveil the West Bank, M12-Microsoft’s venture capital arms has decided to pull back the minority investment out of the facial recognition startup. M12 invested an amount in Anyvision as a part of a $74 million funding round in June 2019. However, the company decided to break all ties following an investigation by the former United States Attorney General Eric Holder.

Several news agencies such as Forbes and Israeli business publication TheMarker claimed that the facial recognition startup was surveilling Palestinians throughout the West Bank. Holder and his team said that the technology had been used in checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank. However, the team also made another statement saying, “AnyVision’s technology has not previously and does not currently power a mass surveillance program in the West Bank that has been alleged in media reports.”

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Nonetheless, Microsoft decided to step away after the company felt that being a minority investor in a company which sells sensitive technology, investments do not generally allow for the level of oversight or control that Microsoft exercises over the use of its own technology. The company gave an official statement on the issue saying, “ After careful consideration, Microsoft and AnyVision have agreed that it is in the best interest of both enterprises for Microsoft to divest its shareholding in AnyVision.”

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Dr Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer - Microsoft India

As per a report, the tech giant also announced a change in its global investment policy related to a minority investment in companies that sell facial recognition technology. “Microsoft’s focus has shifted to commercial relationships that afford Microsoft greater oversight and control over the use of sensitive technologies,” concluded the report.

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