Microsoft denies any involvement with Chinese surveillance firm SenseNets, which suffered a data breach last month and was revealed it was tracking the whereabouts of more than 2.5 million people in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang region.
SenseNets has for some time openly listed Microsoft as a partner on their website. However, a Microsoft spokesperson told New Statesman's NSTech website that it is not involved in a partnership with SenseNets and that the Chinese company used Microsoft’s logo on its website without its permission.
Microsoft is one of very few technology companies permitted to operate in China.
SenseNets faced a data breach last month which revealed it was tracking the whereabouts of more than 2.5 million people in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang region. The breach by the Shenzhen-based facial recognition company exposed names and addresses; ID card numbers; dates of birth; passport photographs; employer details; and, most alarmingly, 6.5 million records relating to the GPS locations passed by individuals in the prior 24 hours.
Microsoft has attempted to position itself as an ethical provider of facial recognition software in recent months. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called in January for governments to regulate the technology and prevent a “race to the bottom” among suppliers.
Victor Gevers, the hacker responsible for publishing the SenseNets breach, tweeted at the time of the SenseNets breach that, "the company also known as Microsoft has been a precious partner who has turned more than once a blind eye to the (technical) / (mal)practices of the engineers of SenseNets. From pirated versions of Windows servers to offering Azure Cognitive services for Face (recognition)."
SenseNets developers' are also alleged to use of Microsoft-owned GitHub and the Azure Cognitive Services. But after SenseNets became news, an API key for Azure Cognitive Services was removed from within the GitHub repository.