May 17, 2020

Why SoftBank is loaning its employees $20bn for reinvestment

William Smith
2 min
Japanese conglomerate SoftBank is reportedly planning to loan employees $20bn to invest in its latest fund
Japanese conglomerate SoftBank is reportedly planning to loan employees $20bn to invest in its latest fund.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal, acc...

Japanese conglomerate SoftBank is reportedly planning to loan employees $20bn to invest in its latest fund.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal, according to “people familiar with the matter” CEO Masayoshi Son could account for $15bn, with employees making up the remaining $5bn. Masayoshi Son is, according to Forbes, Japan’s second richest man, with a net worth of $22.2bn.

The move comes after the July announcement of the Vision Fund 2, with the company saying at the time that it had secured funding, and investing $38bn of its own money. With the $20bn loan on top of that, the company would be providing around half of the funds, with the loaned amount itself making up a fifth.


Other participants in the fund include Apple, Foxconn, Microsoft, Mizuho Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, and Standard Chartered. There was, however, a certain nebulousness to the involvement of some investors, a mystery which would be solved by the revelation.

The original Vision Fund was by most accounts a success, used to invest in a number of tech companies, such as $9.3bn in Uber. That investment has since run into problems, however, with shares down 30% since the company’s May IPO, and perhaps serving to spark worries about the long term sustainability of technology investment.

At the time of its announcement, Vision Fund 2 was said to have more of a focus on the development and advancement of AI, differing from the original. 

The Wall Street Journal further reported that similar measures were taken for its first fund, with roughly $8bn of loaned money involved. The loans were said to have an interest rate of 5% – while TechCrunch quoted Masoyashi Son as saying that the first fund’s value was up by 45% in May.

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Jun 21, 2021

ICO warns of privacy concerns on the use of LFR technology

3 min
Organisations need to justify their use of live facial recognition (LFR) is fair, necessary, and proportionate, says the Information Commissioner’s Office

Live facial recognition (LFR) technology should not be used simply because it is available and must be used for a specific purpose, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for live facial recognition (LFR) technology to be used inappropriately, excessively, or even recklessly. When sensitive personal data is collected on a mass scale without people’s knowledge, choice or control, the impacts could be significant,” said Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner.

Denham explained that with any new technology, building public trust and confidence in the way people’s information is used is crucial so the benefits derived from the technology can be fully realised.

“It is not my role to endorse or ban a technology but, while this technology is developing and not widely deployed, we have an opportunity to ensure it does not expand without due regard for data protection,” Denham added.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has said it will work with organisations to ensure that the use of LFR is lawful, and that a fair balance is struck between their own purposes and the interests and rights of the public. They will also engage with Government, regulators and industry, as well as international colleagues to make sure data protection and innovation can continue to work hand in hand.

What is live facial recognition? 

Facial recognition is the process by which a person can be identified or recognised from a digital facial image. Cameras are used to capture these images and FRT software measures and analyses facial features to produce a biometric template. This typically enables the user to identify, authenticate or verify, or categorise individuals. 

Live facial recognition (LFR) is a type of FRT that allows this process to take place automatically and in real-time. LFR is typically deployed in a similar way to traditional CCTV in that it is directed towards everyone in a particular area rather than specific individuals. It can capture the biometric data of all individuals passing within range of the camera indiscriminately, as opposed to more targeted “one-to-one” data processing. This can involve the collection of biometric data on a mass scale and there is often a lack of awareness, choice or control for the individual in this process. 


Why is biometric data particularly sensitive?

Biometrics are physical or behavioural human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices, or data. Biometric data extracted from a facial image can be used to uniquely identify an individual in a range of different contexts. It can also be used to estimate or infer other characteristics, such as their age, sex, gender, or ethnicity.

The security of the biometric authentication data is vitally important, even more than the security of passwords, since passwords can be easily changed if they are exposed. A fingerprint or retinal scan, however, is immutable. 

The UK courts have concluded that “like fingerprints and DNA [a facial biometric template] is information of an “intrinsically private” character.” LFR can collect this data without any direct engagement with the individual. Given that LFR relies on the use of sensitive personal data, the public must have confidence that its use is lawful, fair, transparent, and meets the other standards set out in data protection legislation.

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