Microsoft divests from Israeli facial recognition firm AnyVision

Microsoft explained that it had decided to end all of its minority investments in companies that sell facial recognition technology.

File photo of a Microsoft logo on an office building in New York (photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
File photo of a Microsoft logo on an office building in New York
(photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
Pro-BDS groups have hailed as a victory a decision by Microsoft Corp. to divest from Israeli firm AnyVision after a sustained campaign against the company for use of its facial recognition technology against Palestinians in the West Bank.
BDS Win!” tweeted left-wing NGO Jewish Voice for Peace upon hearing the news.
“The #DropAnyVision campaign celebrates a huge victory as Microsoft divests from Israeli tech firm AnyVision. 75K signatures, Microsoft HQ protest, powerful partnerships and organizing led to this win.”
An audit done by US international firm Covington & Burling LLP confirmed that “AnyVision technology is used in border crossing checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank, as acknowledged by AnyVision in response to media inquiries and confirmed to Microsoft.”
The audit, headed by former US attorney-general Eric Holder dismissed, however, claims that the technology had been part of a mass surveillance program.
“The available evidence, however, demonstrates that AnyVision’s technology has not previously and does not currently power a mass surveillance program in the West Bank as has been alleged in media reports,” the firm said in a statement authored by both Microsoft and AnyVision. It was posted Friday on Microsoft’s website.
Microsoft’s investment in AnyVision is not, therefore, a breach of company policy, Covington explained.
Microsoft stated however, that the issue had alerted it to the problems inherent in “being a minority investor in a company that sells sensitive technology.”
The company explained that “such investments do not generally allow for the level of oversight or control that Microsoft exercises over the use of its own technology.”
Microsoft explained that it had decided to end all of its minority investments in companies that sell facial recognition technology.” It would instead, it stated, shift its focus to “relationships that afford Microsoft greater oversight and control over the use of sensitive technologies.”