Company Threatens To Sue NBC For Reporting On Its Facial Recognition Tech Being Used Against Palestinians
from the how-not-to-handle-journalists dept
Earlier this week, NBC News had quite a story about a facial recognition tech company in Israel, named AnyVision, that is being used by the Israeli military to conduct surveillance on Palestinians in the West Bank. Much of the article focuses on the fact that Microsoft invested in AnyVision, at a time when Microsoft claims it’s been taking the moral high ground and unwilling to work on more nefarious uses of things like facial recognition technology. The story hits on a bunch of different points that we regularly cover at Techdirt, from misuses of facial recognition to large company hypocrisy. But we’re writing about it for a different reason: the way that AnyVision’s CEO reacted upon being contacted by NBC reporters:
When NBC News first approached AnyVision for an interview, CEO Eylon Etshtein denied any knowledge of “Google Ayosh,” threatened to sue NBC News and said that AnyVision was the ?most ethical company known to man.? He disputed that the West Bank was ?occupied? and questioned the motivation of the NBC News inquiry, suggesting the reporter must have been funded by a Palestinian activist group.
As a general rule, when reporters come calling, asking for comment on a questionable thing your company may be engaged in, don’t threaten to sue. Also, generally speaking, calling yourself the “most ethical company known to man” probably throws up some red flags too (as does the denial of a program that NBC had documentation about…). All that really does is tell a reporter that they’re on to something.
The story itself, of course, raises all sorts of questions about how governments, law enforcement, and the military might use facial recognition — a technology that still hasn’t been proven to be particularly accurate. There’s a reason why many places are banning the use of the technology by law enforcement. At the very least, any such use deserves public discussion and scrutiny — not bogus threats of lawsuits.