Have governments stopped trying to finesse intense face biometrics projects?
Israel and India are building facial recognition surveillance projects that seem consciously designed to aggravate specific fears held by privacy advocates.
The separate projects are indiscriminately training huge, growing networks of CCTV cameras integrated with biometric technology on people without their consent.
In both cases, the governments reportedly are photographing people, sometimes at random and often person by person. Privacy advocates say the photos are used as raw material to train AI algorithms.
Both projects also are being developed geographically alongside smart city initiatives. Israel’s face biometrics effort reportedly is openly called a smart city effort.
It is not surprising that some see the projects as flagrant and massive examples of government secrecy, overreach and intimidation being introduced under the guise of tech-positive smart-city urban development.
The Israel facial recognition project, according to The Washington Post, is in the occupied West Bank watching Palestinians.
The Post picked up the story from Breaking the Silence, a group of veterans who oppose Israel’s Palestinian occupation policies. A handful of recent Israeli soldiers gave anonymous accounts to the newspaper and/or researchers within the group.
Last year, Israeli troops in the West Bank were enticed to compete with each other to take the most photographs of residents. (Israel also is one of several nations working to biometrically record everyone coming in to the state.)
A government phone app called Blue Wolf is used today to analyze photos a serviceperson takes of a Palestinian, comparing the shots with a database. The app flashes color-coded messages to the photographer, indicating whether a person should be arrested immediately, detained or released.
Hebron, a West Bank city divided by Israel, is the scene of many facial recognition cameras, according to The Post, which reportedly are explained as being part of “Hebron Smart City.” The network allegedly gives the Israel Defense Forces real-time surveillance, including occasionally into private homes.
One area within Hebron, according to a resident quoted by the paper, has a surveillance camera about every 300 feet.
Similarly dense stretches of surveillance infrastructure reportedly can be found in India’s state of Telangana, home to one of the nation’s intense technology hubs, Hyderabad.
Amnesty International reports that about 600,000 cameras already mounted in Telangana are about to be tied into a civilian surveillance command-and-control center nearing completion.
The building reportedly will be able to ingest feeds from 600,000 to a million cameras.
Human rights advocate Amnesty claims that the state has India’s largest number of face biometrics projects, and suggests that vendors are not adequately addressing the risks of providing their technology to governments.
Citing their geospatial analysis, the organization found that 63 percent of one Hyderabad neighborhood is watched. Another is 54 percent covered by facial recognition surveillance.