All across the West Bank there is a network of secret cameras hooked up to cutting-edge facial recognition software. It tracks every Palestinian face it can find, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Israeli Defense Forces’ surprise partner in this Orwellian surveillance system? Microsoft.
This June, Microsoft made a massive multi-million dollar investment in AnyVision, an Israeli facial recognition company led by former Mossad and Israeli defense staff – even though Microsoft had just committed to follow six ethical “principles to guide Microsoft’s facial recognition work.”
A description of one of these principles:
“We will not deploy our facial recognition technology in those surveillance scenarios where we believe there are inadequate safeguards to protect democratic freedoms and human rights.”
Under Israel’s apartheid system, there can never be adequate “safeguards” to protect the freedoms and human rights of Palestinians.
And there is NOTHING ETHICAL about creating a dystopian system to watch over an imprisoned people.
If Microsoft wants to claim that it’s an ethical leader in Artificial Intelligence, and continue to position itself as a trustworthy family brand, then CEO Satya Nadella must act immediately.
There’s strong evidence Microsoft knew their investment with AnyVision was unethical but went ahead anyway.
Bloomberg reports that the facial recognition company AnyVision stopped its investment round to get in line with Microsoft’s ethical standards, which almost certainly means Microsoft was scrutinizing their projects.
It would be hard for Microsoft NOT to have known the Israeli Defense Forces were going to benefit from the investment: former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo heads the AnyVision advisory board, and the president of the company is Amir Kain, former head of the Defense Ministry’s security department.
It’s bad enough that Palestinians endure long waits at checkpoints, live segregated from Jews, and are treated like criminals while trying to get to work or visit family. Now their every move will be monitored with Microsoft’s help.
Many of us use Microsoft’s products at work, home and play – and as consumers and citizens, we have a huge ability to shape the perception of Microsoft’s brand. If they want us all to buy that they’re an ethical leader in Artificial Intelligence, they need to immediately ditch AnyVision.
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