Microsoft Purges Massive Facial Recognition Database As Privacy Concerns Mount
Facial recognition is a technology that can be incredibly beneficial in the tech space, but it has its share of supporters and detractors. Many companies in the tech world operate facial recognition databases, including software giant Microsoft. Likewise, many law enforcement agencies use facial recognition as a way to search through thousands of records to match a face with a suspect in a crime.
Microsoft's massive facial recognition database went live in 2016 and was built of online images of 100,000 well-known people. The massive database is believed to have been used to train facial recognition systems that are used by police and the military. Microsoft has now deleted the massive database that housed 10 million images.
The deletion comes almost a year after Microsoft called for federal regulation of facial recognition technology. However, Microsoft's call for better regulation of facial recognition technology isn't why it removed the database. The software giant said that the database was no longer available because the person who was in charge of curating it left the company. The 10 million strong set of images was called the MSCeleb database and was compiled from images of celebrities found online. However, the Financial Times found that a number of other individuals had their images siphoned by the database including researchers and a former FTC commissioner.
According to the Megapixels project, a project that tracks face databases, most images were of American and British actors. The database also includes people described as those who "must maintain an online presence for their professional lives." The assumption was the latter group includes journalists, artists, musicians, activists, policy makers, writers, and researchers.
Even though Microsoft has removed the database, it was posted online, and other people have downloaded it. Once any image or data is put online; it can't be taken back; it gets downloaded and lives on hard drives all around the world. A teen recently sued Apple for $1 billion after bad facial recognition tech allegedly resulted in his arrest.