Microsoft pulls out of AnyVision investment following surveillance controversy

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Microsoft logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft pulled out from its investment in Israeli facial recognition company AnyVision.
  • Last year, Microsoft invested $74 million in the company.
  • The move comes after an independent investigation into claims that AnyVision's technology was used by the Israeli government to surveil Palestinians on the West Bank.

Microsoft is selling its stake in Israeli facial recognition company AnyVision, NBC News reports. The move comes after Microsoft commissioned an independent investigation into claims that the company's technology was used by the Israeli government to surveil Palestinian people in the West Bank.

Microsoft initially invested $74 million in AnyVision last June through its M12 investment arm. After allegations of the Israeli government using the company's technology for surveillance of Palestinians arose in press reports last October, Microsoft enlisted former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his team at law firm Covington & Burling to investigate the claims to determine whether AnyVision was in conflict with with Microsoft's ethical principles regarding facial recognition.

The results of the audit were published today, stating the following:

The available evidence demonstrated that 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. As such, Covington could not substantiate a breach of the Microsoft Global Finance Portfolio Company Pledge on Facial Recognition.

Covington says that it interviewed AnyVision employees and third parties, account records, and other documents as part of its investigation. However, Covington notes that its "review was limited in certain respects by legal restrictions on the disclosure of sensitive information."

"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," Microsoft said in a statement to NBC News. "For Microsoft, the audit process reinforced the challenges of being a minority investor in a company that sells sensitive technology, since such investments do not generally allow for the level of oversight or control that Microsoft exercises over the use of its own technology."

Microsoft also said that, in an effort to ensure "greater oversight and control over the use of sensitive technologies," it will end minority investments in companies that deal with facial recognition technologies.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

10 Comments
  • Err, what else is facial recognition technology supposed to be used for, if not to recognise faces... It doesn't make pita sandwiches.
  • Yeah but I wouldn't touch it if I was MS... It's a hot potato right now... It wouldn't be a wise investment at the moment...
  • Recognize faces for what purpose? Considering how badly Israel has treated Palestinian civilians, it's likely for persecution. They did the right thing.
  • Israel defends itself against those who dedicate themselves to its obliteration. Don't be a credulous tool for jihad.
  • Ohhhh... my Goodness... Israel used it to try and identify palestinian terrorists... oh that is just terrible.
  • It doesn't say it was terrorists, for all we know it could be political, or economical...
    And like I said earlier it's too hot for MS to touch it....
  • You've got it backwards. Israel has been persecuting Palestinian civilians for a long time and in large numbers. The Israeli govt are the terrorists.
  • Says one of jihad's Useful Idiots. Hamas declares in its charter that its goal is to drive Israel into the sea. What is their justification? The preaching and practice of Muhammad, who hated Jews with a preternatural rage. It's why the grand mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini worked with Hitler on the concentrations camps (encouraging **** soldiers to do their "work" diligently) and recruited a Muslim SS division in the Balkans. It's why Maimonides lamented the treatment of his fellow Jews at the hands of Muslims. This is what you're defending: "Allah's Apostle said, 'The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him"'" (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177).
  • Lol and Israel shouldn't exist to begin with period... No country should be allowed to exist on the basis of religion period... Heck almost no boarders are legitimate in our day and age... It's just ******* tribal moronic and an insult to evolution... Territorialisl is for unevolved primates and retards.... Give me break Israel exist just because it was the easiest and quickest way for Europe to get read of issue post ww2...
  • You're exactly right.