Microsoft has erased a major facial recognition database holding around 10 million images.
According to the Financial Times, the digital online collection that harboured 100,000 well-known faces was being used to improve facial recognition technology.
Released three years ago, the database is thought to have been part of efforts to train a computer system run by police and military forces.
wThe database was eventually erased by Microsoft as the tech giant urges politicians in the States to work harder to implement regulation of recognition technology.
Speaking to the FT, Microsoft said that the database had been shut down owing to a senior departure within the firm. In 2018, Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith called upon the US Congress to build regulation into facial recognition systems, because of how open such systems are to abuse which could have profound implications on wider society.
Microsoft has since turned down demands of California police to use the facial recognition database to help identification processes within cars and body cameras.
The huge numbers of images within the MSCeleb database comprises pictures of famous people online. Most of the images were of US and UK actors, but many were of individuals who “must maintain an online presence for their professional lives,” Megapixels project said.
As such, the database also held the faces of many politicians, musicians, researchers, journalists, artists and activists.
While the database is no longer within reach through Microsoft, it is likely still in use among those who downloaded the copy when it was available.
Speaking to Engadget, Megapixel’s Adam Harvey, said:
“You can’t make a data set disappear. Once you post it, and people download it, it exists on hard drives all over the world.”
Authorities in Britain have come under fire for testing facial recognition technology which has subsequently proven to be 92% inaccurate in some trials. The practice has been labelled “dangerously irresponsible” by Big Brother Watch.
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