Microsoft logoSource: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central

What you need to know

  • Microsoft hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an audit of AnyVision regarding facial recognition technology.
  • The audit aims to determine if AnyVision complied with Microsoft's ethical principles regarding biometric surveillance technology.
  • AnyVision disputed the accuracy of reports from October regarding its use of facial recognition.

Microsoft hired Eric Holder, a former United States District Attorney General, to conduct an audit AnyVision's use of facial recognition technology. The audit aims to determine if AnyVision complied with Microsoft's ethical principles regarding biometric surveillance.

In June, Microsoft's venture capital arm, M12, invested $74 million in AnyVision in Series A funding. As pointed out by NBC, Microsoft stipulated that "AnyVision should comply with its six ethical principles to guide its facial recognition work: fairness, transparency, accountability, nondiscrimination, notice and consent, and lawful surveillance." The stipulation involving lawful surveillance states, "We will advocate for safeguards for people's democratic freedoms in law enforcement surveillance scenarios and will not deploy facial recognition technology in scenarios that we believe will put these freedoms at risk." A full breakdown of Microsoft's six principles can be found in a Microsoft blog.

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NBC first reported on AnyVision in October, claiming that AnyVision uses facial recognition to "surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank." AnyVision disputes these claims, and said in a statement to NBC, "AnyVision's facial recognition technology is not being used for surveillance in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, and AnyVision would not allow its technology to be used for that purpose."

A Microsoft spokesperson told CNet that Holder's team "will move quickly, reviewing documents and conducting on the ground interviews with AnyVision employees and others to ensure a full and thorough investigation." Holder's team includes several former federal prosecutors, according to CNet.

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