Microsoft hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate an Israeli facial recognition company that it invested in

Satya NadellaREUTERS/Robert Galbraith

  • Microsoft hired US Attorney General Eric Holder to audit an Israeli facial recognition company called AnyVision.
  • Microsoft invested in AnyVision this summer via M12, its venture capital arm. Microsoft's investment was met with backlash by the ACLU.
  • News reports suggest AnyVision's technology is secretly used to monitor Palestinian residents in the West Bank. AnyVision has denied that it uses facial recognition for surveillance in the West Bank.
  • Microsoft has worked to establish itself as a leader in tech industry ethics, including by publishing in December six principles to guide its facial recognition work.
  • Holder will reportedly lead a team of former federal prosecutors to investigate how the company's technology is being used.
  • Read more stories on Business Insider's homepage

Microsoft has hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate an Israeli facial recognition company called AnyVision - in which Microsoft is an investor - and find out whether it complies with the Redmond-based company's ethical principles guiding its work with the technology.

The news was first reported by Olivia Solon of NBC News and confirmed by Microsoft to Business Insider.

Microsoft has worked to establish itself as a leader in tech industry ethics, including by publishing in December six principles to guide its facial recognition work. M12, Microsoft's venture capital arm, recently announced that it would contribute to a $78 million Series A funding round for AnyVision.

AnyVision's facial recognition technology is used by the Israeli military at border crossing checkpoints to log the faces of Palestinians crossing into Israel. News reports, however, suggest the technology is also secretly used to monitor Palestinian residents in the West Bank. AnyVision has denied that it uses facial recognition for surveillance in the West Bank.

Microsoft's investment drew immediate backlash from human rights advocates including the ACLU.

Holder will lead a team of former federal prosecutors at law firm Covington & Burling to investigate how AnyVision's technology is being used.

"They will move quickly, reviewing documents and conducting on the ground interviews with AnyVision employees and others to ensure a full and thorough investigation," a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement.

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