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Microsoft denies partnership with Chinese biometric surveillance firm SenseNets


Microsoft has denied the existence of any partnership with SenseNets, and asked SenseNets to remove the Microsoft logo from its website, NS Tech reports.

The report comes against the background of a massive leak of sensitive data which exposes the extent of surveillance, including facial recognition, the people of China’s restive Xinjiang Province are subject to, as well as a growing public debate about the social and ethical implications of public facial recognition technology, which Microsoft has been a vocal participant in.

The tech giant originally declined to deny a relationship, but said in a follow-up statement that SenseNets had used its logo without permission. NS Tech also reports that up to 1.5 million Muslim citizens of Xinjiang are being detained in “re-education” centers.

Forbes contributor Zak Doffman, founder and CEO of Digital Barriers, reports that the nature of a connection between the two companies was debated online following the disclosure of the data leak.

Victor Gevers, who discovered the breach, tweeted about the connection, suggesting SenseNets runs its biometric technology on Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services.

SenseNets developers also used Microsoft-owned GitHub. An API key for Cognitive Services disappeared from the platform, before being discovered in developer’s personal repositories, according to Gevers. Gevers also told CNBC that the company could have integrated the Microsoft code in its products through a subscription or a free trial by an individual developer.

“(W)e’ve done a search of all our partnerships over the past five years and don’t have any evidence of Microsoft having a partnership with SenseNets,” the company told Forbes. “We’ve done a thorough examination. SenseNets and its parent company are not customers of our Azure services including those related to facial recognition, and we have no evidence they’ve purchased our products or services in the past five years.”

The situation involving American and Chinese companies has also occurred just as the two countries are locked in a trade dispute.

SenseNets has not responded to requests from various publications for comment.

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