AnyVision reevaluates biometrics business in Hong Kong, defends Israeli army work

Microsoft-funded Israeli startup AnyVision is reevaluating its business plans in Hong Kong following controversy around the ethical use of its technology and mass demonstrations in China, writes Fast Company.

In July it was reported that the company was collaborating with the Israeli army, which was using its facial recognition technology at army checkpoints in the Palestinian territories. AnyVision’s alleged collaboration with Hong Kong, Macau and Russia also drew in a lot of criticism from privacy and civil rights groups, but investors, including chipmaker Qualcomm, Bosch, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Microsoft, concluded the tool was compliant with AI ethics standards.

“AnyVision agreed to comply with Microsoft’s facial recognition principles, and that commitment is backed-up by verification mechanisms which we are discussing with them,” Microsoft’s M12 venture fund spokesperson told Fast Company. Microsoft has been highly visible among tech giants in calling for facial recognition to be regulated and controlled.

According to a company spokesperson, AnyVision has been doing business with more than 40 countries that have installed the facial recognition technology at hundreds of sites; it hasn’t been sold in Hong Kong, yet.

“AnyVision’s facial recognition systems at border crossings work in the same way and for the same purposes as they do in airports, for example,” the company says when asked about the use of its technology at the Palestine-Israel border.

“For commuters and others who want to simply cross country borders, facial recognition drastically decreases wait times at border crossings. The other advantage is that they provide an unbiased safeguard at the border to detect and deter persons who have committed unlawful activities.”

“Essentially, their technology is designed to turn us into a surveillance society with these AI-based judgments impacting our lives in ways that we have very little control over,” believes Shankar Narayan, director of Technology and Liberty Project at ACLU Washington.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is boycotting AnyVision for its collaboration with the Israeli army and enabling the breach of human rights not only in the region, but in Spain, London, and Nice, says the BDS movement.

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