Microsoft discreetly deleted the database of facial recognition of more than 10 million images of around 100,000 people, most of them were known celebrities. These databases were used by researchers and private companies to train facial recognition technology.
A facial recognition system is a technology capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source. There are multiple methods in which facial recognition systems work, but in general, they work by comparing selected facial features from the given image with faces within a database. It is also described as a Biometric Artificial Intelligence-based application that can uniquely identify a person by analyzing patterns based on the person’s facial textures and shape
Facial recognition is now considered as a widely discussed topic as many companies and law enforcement agencies use this technology as a reference without giving much importance to personal privacy.
The ultimate ways to train the algorithms and to strengthen the technology is by showcasing the vast number of pictures from the database. Microsoft published such database in 2016 and calls it MS Celeb.
Microsoft claimed that they have scraped those photos from images and videos that are publicly available on the internet which together comprises of approximately 10 million of 100,000 people which is considered as the largest publicly available facial recognition data set in the world.
According to the investigation, it is claimed that MS Celeb was not only used by academics but also military researchers and private companies to train their own facial recognition solutions which also includes SenseTime and Megvii. These are Chinese companies who are involved in China’s notorious tracking endeavors.
The investigation also revealed that many of the faces included in the data were not just public figures or celebrities but also includes security journalists and privacy advocates such as Shoshana Zuboff, author of Surveillance Capitalism.
Microsoft claims that the database is no longer available, as the responsible person no longer works at the company, however, it is not completely vanished, as it is still been posted on GitHub, hosting the files on Dropbox and Baidu Cloud, so there is no way from stopping them from continuing to post it and use it for their own purposes.
Police forces in the UK were criticized for trailing home-grown facial recognition systems which proved to be not capable of recognizing people, this trail was claimed to be wrong in nearly 92% of the cases.