Microsoft committed to protecting democratic freedoms. Then it funded an Israeli facial recognition firm that secretly watched West Bank Palestinians.
By Olivia Solon NBC News
Microsoft has invested in a startup that uses facial recognition to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms.
AnyVision, which is headquartered in Israel but has offices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore, sells an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, Better Tomorrow. It lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or a smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds.
According to five sources familiar with the matter, AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank. One source said the project is nicknamed “Google Ayosh,” where “Ayosh” refers to the occupied Palestinian territories and “Google” denotes the technology’s ability to search for people.
The American technology company Google is not involved in the project, a spokesman said.
The surveillance project was so successful that AnyVision won the country’s top defense prize in 2018. During the presentation, Israel’s defense minister lauded the company — without using its name — for preventing “hundreds of terror attacks” using “large amounts of data.”
Palestinians living in the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship or voting rights but are subject to movement restrictions and surveillance by the Israeli government…