Microsoft to Sell Stake in AnyVision Start-Up, End Facial Recognition Investment

Microsoft’s (MSFT) investment arm M12 said it plans to divest its shareholding in Israel-based face-recognition start-up AnyVision Interactive Technologies Ltd.

The software giant added that it would seize making minority investments in companies that develop facial recognition technology, as they do not “allow the level of oversight or control that Microsoft exercises over the use of its own technology.” The decision marks an investment policy shift to commercial ventures that offer Microsoft greater oversight and control over the use of sensitive technologies, the company said in a joint statement on M12’s website.

In June 2019, Microsoft’s venture fund M12 was one of several investors to participate in a $74 million funding round in AnyVision.

Over the past three months, Microsoft has received 25 Buy ratings and 1 Hold rating from analysts in the TipRanks database, giving the company a Strong Buy consensus rating. With the stock selling for $149.70, the average price target of $195.21 implies a 30% upside potential. (See Microsoft stock analysis on TipRanks)

The AnyVision divestment follows a probe of the company by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The probe was launched in October 2019 in response to media reports that the facial recognition start-up was surveilling Palestinians throughout the West Bank. The findings of the probe, released over the weekend, showed that “AnyVision’s technology has not previously and does not currently power a mass surveillance program in the West Bank.”

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