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Israeli army using 'artificial intelligence, facial recognition' to track Palestinian civilians

Mass surveillance tools such as facial recognition have been widely criticised by rights groups. [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 July, 2019

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Israel runs one of the largest surveillance operations in the world in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel's military is reportedly testing controversial facial recognition technology in the occupied West Bank to track Palestinians, installing biotech software at military checkpoints as part of draconian monitoring operations against civilians.

The technology is produced by Anyvision Interactive Technologies, Israel's most high-profile startup biometric firm.

The UK-based company, which operates in 43 countries and more than 350 locations, is working on two projects with Israel's military in the occupied Palestinian territories, TheMarker, a Hebrew-language daily business newspaper, reported.

Read more:  Israel's 'predictive policing' sees online crackdown on Palestinians

One such project earlier this year saw 27 biometric checkpoints implemented in the occupied West Bank, including new identification and inspection stations to monitor Palestinian labourers crossing into Israel.

The second project includes using facial recognition technology via cameras inside the occupied West Bank to monitor Palestinian civilians, according to TheMarker.

Normally used in airports, casinos, and sports stadiums, the use of Anyvision's technology by Israel to target Palestinians is unprecedented.

The company's co-founder and chief executive, Eylon Etshtein, told TheMarker that his company only sells to democracies and is sensitive to racial and gender bias.

"It's really a huge dilemma, but I'm not the guy to ask this. Ultimately we're a technology company that does the maximum so that its technology isn't misused," he said, when asked about Israel's army using Anyvision’s technology in the occupied West Bank.

Israel already runs one of the largest surveillance operations in the world in the occupied Palestinian territories, including monitoring social media accounts and using the practise of predictive policing, which uses algorithms to search huge amounts of data for keywords to form the basis for arrest.

China is currently one of the only states to have a large mass surveillance operation utilising facial recognition, to spy on its own citizens.

Mass surveillance tools such as facial recognition have been widely criticised by human rights groups, who have branded it as 'Big Brother' technology that violates the privacy of individuals.

In May, San Francisco became the first American city to outlaw facial recognition technology, while camera maker Axon recently decided to eliminate its products' facial recognition capacity.

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