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Myanmar seeks China’s input on ID system, Israel’s facial recognition bill faces backlash

Rights advocates worried about Chinese input in Myanmar, Israel’s facial recognition bill
Myanmar seeks China’s input on ID system, Israel’s facial recognition bill faces backlash

Myanmar is seeking input from China on introducing a biometric identification system, a project that has raised concern among rights activists who fear that it could worsen the country’s human rights situation.

The war-torn country is currently preparing to conduct a national census and introduce an electronic identification system that will collect demographic and biometric data. Last week, Junta-appointed Immigration Minister Myint Kyaing visited Beijing to seek its help with the project, The Irrawaddy reports.

In China, Kyaing met with Xu Ganglu, deputy minister of the National Immigration Administration. During the meeting, Xu expressed China’s full support for the regime with the two sides discussing cooperation between their immigration agencies. Kyaing also visited Beijing Hisign Technology, a company that provides facial, fingerprint and palm biometrics.

Kyaing also visited New Delhi in July to explore the potential for cooperation with India in implementing an e-identification system. The U.S. Department of the Treasury added the immigration minister to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) in 2021.

The military junta, which seized control of Myanmar in a coup in February 2021, announced that the nationwide census will take place in October 2024 and will be followed by general elections. This summer, Myanmar’s Ministry of Immigration and Population sent data collectors across the country to obtain fingerprints, iris, and face biometrics and other personal information from citizens of 10 years and older, as well as foreign nationals living in the country.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been accused of extrajudicial killings and torture of political prisoners. Critics say the junta will use the census and the digital ID card to step up monitoring of opponents of its coup.

Israel’s facial recognition bill could be used for racial profiling: Rights groups

Human rights organizations have issued a warning that Israel’s planned facial recognition bill could lead to “more violations” against Palestinians.

Last week, Israel granted preliminary approval for a bill that provides a legal basis for deploying biometric surveillance for investigation and prevention of serious crimes. The bill, which is promoted by national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir, is still awaiting approval from the Knesset before it can be signed into law.

If passed, the bill will allow Israeli police to install facial recognition cameras and collect biometric data from individuals in public spaces across the country, particularly areas that are home to Palestinians.

Activists, however, are calling for the bill to be thrown out. The Middle East Eye reports.

The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, 7amleh, notes that the bill explicitly focuses on Palestinian towns and cities within Israel. The law also fails to introduce oversight or judicial warrants, allowing police officers to operate cameras at their discretion, opening doors to violations.

“The collected biometric information may be used to suppress protests, and impede social and political activities, especially within Palestinian communities disproportionately targeted by the bill,” the group says.

The bill will also retroactively establish the legal footing for the controversial Hawk-Eye license plate recognition program as well as the Tool system, which surveils mobile phones and stores their information and location, it adds.

Other human rights groups such as Palestinian Al-Meezan and members of the Israeli parliament such as Gilad Kariv are also opposing the bill. Anna Bacciarelli, associate tech director at Human Rights Watch argues that facial recognition technology poses a huge risk to privacy.

“The government is right that facial recognition tech should be regulated, but this powerful technology should be banned from public spaces, rather than green-lighted for widespread use,” she says.

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