SoftBank Backs Facial-Recognition Startup Despite Privacy Concerns

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SoftBank Group Corp. is leading an investment in AnyVision Interactive Technologies Ltd. that values the facial-recognition company at over $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, underscoring its commitment to the technology despite pushback over privacy concerns.

The Tel Aviv-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to recognize faces and objects, said Wednesday that it had raised $235 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund and other investors that it planned to use to expand in the U.S.

The fundraising comes as facial-recognition technology faces growing scrutiny from regulators and activists who say it infringes on privacy. Last month the European Union proposed a new law that sought to limit police use of the technology, while several U.S. cities including San Francisco and Portland, Ore., have banned it.

Large technology companies including Google’s Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Amazon Inc. have also stopped or dialed down their sales of facial-recognition technology in the past few years, citing privacy concerns.

That pullback impacted AnyVision last year when Microsoft sold its stake in the startup citing “the challenges of being a minority investor in a company that sells sensitive technology.”

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