AnyVision, an Israeli company that monitors Palestinians in the West Bank with CCTV surveillance, is violating ethical agreements made with Microsoft on that, NBC News reports Monday based on anonymous former employees.
Microsoft invested 74 million dollars (66.7 million euros) in AnyVision together with other parties in June. The Tel Aviv-based company supplies technology to Israel to monitor Palestinians in occupied territories. Among other things, the product could identify and follow people in camera images live.
The Israeli army is said to have installed thousands of cameras in the West Bank to monitor the movements of residents of the area and prevent terrorist attacks. For this, use would be made of AnyVision software in secret.
The company's product is also used at checkpoints. In August, AnyVision defended the use of face recognition in that area, stating that the technique is similar to what is used at airports.
The former employees of AnyVision say they are dissatisfied with NBC News about the course of the company. The pressure to sell the technology to companies, governments, and military customers would be beyond ethical questions about its use.
Microsoft calls for responsibility
Microsoft's investment is sensitive because the company publicly speaks out against abuse of face recognition. In July 2018 CEO Brad Smith called on the industry to take responsibility in this area.
"Microsoft and other tech companies have a responsibility to ensure that this technology puts people first and is developed in a way that is consistent with widely accepted social values," said Smith.
A Microsoft spokesperson told NBC News that the company "takes the allegations of mass surveillance seriously". The relationship between Microsoft and the Israeli company will be stopped if research shows that these principles are being violated, the spokesperson said.
AnyVision tells NBC News that all "installations have been tested against Microsoft's ethical principles and internal rigorous approval procedures".