Published: Sun, June 09, 2019
IT | By Lester Massey

Microsoft Takes Down Its Facial Recognition Database

Microsoft Takes Down Its Facial Recognition Database

Numerous people featured in the dataset were not asked for their consent to be included, but their images were scraped from the internet under the Creative Commons license, according to the FT.

Microsoft President Brad Smith disclosed in April that the company had declined a request from California law enforcement department to sell equipment powered by face recognition technology to arm its police force.

The images had been scraped from search engines and were published as a dataset named MS Celeb in 2016.

Microsoft has deleted a massive database of 10 million images which was being used to train facial recognition systems, the Financial Times reports. In April, the company said it turned down an opportunity to share its facial recognition technology with US law enforcement amid fears it could breach human rights.


Even though the data is no longer available from Microsoft, it is probably still being used by people who downloaded a copy.

As per a report on The New York Times, the Chinese government used facial recognition software to keep an eye on the Uighurs Muslim minority in the country, thanks to Chinese tech firms, SenseTime, and Megvii who got access the database. And with such a very big data set in the picture, it becomes more sensitive.

Nonetheless, as Engadget's reference to Berlin-based researcher Adam Harvey reveals, once such a set of data is made public, it can never really be recovered or destroyed which makes Microsoft's action more symbolic than anything else. The MS Celeb set has been used by several companies, including IBM, Panasonic, Alibaba, Nvidia, and Hitachi. While it may claim it wants regulation for facial recognition, but it may also want to use facial recognition technology to sell items listed on its grocery app Kroger and has eluded privacy-related scrutiny for years. People are posting it on GitHub, hosting the files on Dropbox and Baidu Cloud, and there is no way from stopping them to continue to post it and use it for their own purposes.

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