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Wars prompt questions for facial recognition providers, and obscure the answers

Wars prompt questions for facial recognition providers, and obscure the answers

The fog of war is obscuring details about a pair of contracts involving facial recognition developers; one Russian, one Israeli.

The New York Times reports that Corsight and Google Photos are being used in combination by Israeli soldiers inside Gaza to identify wanted individuals. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) originally deployed the facial recognition technology to identify hostages among fleeing Gazans, but has since repurposed it to identify Hamas members and associates, according to the Times.

The report includes claims that the technology incorrectly identified people as wanted Hamas terrorists. It also states that IDF soldiers have been demanding names of Hamas members and associates from people detained at checkpoints, which would likely lead to civilians being incorrectly identified.

IDF soldiers found Google’s software more effective for matching images with the face only partially visible more effective than Corsight’s according to the Times, but continued using Corsight for its customization capabilities.

Corsight’s technology was used following the October 7 terrorist attack to identify missing and deceased victims, but the company had already been accused of enabling the repression of Palestinians.

Was Corsight specifically contracted to identify hostages or terrorists in Gaza?  Did the facial recognition technology misidentify people as Hamas terrorists, or was it terrified neighbors?

Corsight declined to comment.

Tugging on the data labelling supply chain

A Dutch subsidiary of a Russian company is accused of carrying out data-processing contracts on behalf of Russian facial recognition developers NtechLab and Tevian. Both are now sanctioned in the EU, but had not yet been when gig-economy outsourcing firm Toloka, owned by Russian search provider Yandex, carried out contracts with the biometrics developers, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Gig workers contracted by Toloka were asked to draw boxes around the people they found in images provided by the company. In comments to Follow the Money, Yandex said Toloka had not provided services to or received money from NtechLab or Tevian, while a Toloka representative said an immaterial amount of work was offered through its platform for the two biometrics providers.

Did gig workers around the world assist in the development of facial recognition developed by sanctioned companies and used to oppress Russian protestors and political opponents? Or was negligible work wrapped up before sanctions were levied?

The incentives for each party line up in such a way that we will likely never know for sure.

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