Nov 16, 2019

Microsoft hires Eric Holder to audit facial recognition firm

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Microsoft hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to audit AnyVision, a facial recognition company it has invested in, to determine whether the Israeli tech company adheres to Microsoft's ethical principles, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: AnyVision's "advanced tactical surveillance" software powered a project that covertly monitored Palestinians in the West Bank, for which the company won an Israeli defense prize in 2018, per NBC. Human rights activists have rallied against the company for that project.

What they're saying: "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," the company told NBC News in October.

What's next: Holder, who worked from 2009 to 2015 under President Obama, will head up a team of former federal prosecutors to investigate how AnyVision's technology is being used.

Go deeper: Microsoft out-savvies Google on AI ethics

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Leaked documents show Chinese businesses are shaping UN facial recognition standards

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The United Nations' standards for facial recognition, video monitoring, and city and vehicle surveillance are being shaped by Chinese tech groups including ZTE, Dahua and China Telecom, according to leaked documents reported by the Financial Times.

Why it matters: Companies that help shape standards are able to craft regulations to fit their own goals and specifications. Developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where China has sought to grow its influence through the Belt and Road Initiative, often adopt standards developed by the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as policy, according to the FT.

Go deeperArrowDec 1, 2019

Scoop: China tried to get World Bank to fund surveillance in Xinjiang

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chinese recipients of World Bank loans tried to secure funding for the purchase of facial recognition technology for use in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang, according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The World Bank's loan program in Xinjiang demonstrates the extreme moral hazard that is now facing any organization with operations in the region, where China has constructed a surveillance state and detained more than a million ethnic minorities.

Go deeperArrowDec 11, 2019

DHS renews facial recognition plans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios Visuals

The Department of Homeland Security recently updated its proposal to include U.S. citizens in facial recognition databases when entering or leaving the country.

The big picture: This move is part of the agency's long-term plan to upgrade the TSA's biometrics and identification technology, which has included facial recognition testing at over a dozen major airports.

Go deeperArrowDec 4, 2019