Briefing: US Senators criticize Microsoft for China AI research

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Senior Republicans criticise Microsoft’s China work – Financial Times

What happened: Between March and November of 2018, Microsoft researchers in Beijing co-wrote and published three papers on artificial intelligence with a university run by China’s top military body. The revelations about the American company’s involvement in building surveillance systems for the Chinese government, a possible breach of US laws, has sparked alarm from leading China hawks in Washington DC. One of the papers delineates an AI method to create accurate environmental maps by using facial recognition. Microsoft defended the academic papers, saying that they are the result of a collective effort involving an international team of scientists and academics researching key technologies.

Why it’s important: The revelation comes as American government agencies, including the FBI, are scrutinizing US academic collaborations with parties linked to the Chinese government, fearing that the resulting research could assist China’s military interests. US authorities are considering increased vetting for Chinese partners, a measure implemented last week by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After cutting ties with Huawei, the top university announced that potential Chinese collaborations will face an “elevated risk” review process.