AI: Israeli Occupation uses facial recognition technology to Track Palestinians

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Occupied Jerusalem – Al Carmel

Amnesty International Tuesday maintained that the Israeli occupied authorities are using facial recognition technology to entrench apartheid and continued domination and oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

In a report titled Automated Apartheid: How Facial Recognition Fragments, Segregates and Controls Palestinians in the OPT, Amnesty International (AI) documents how the occupation authorities are utilizing Artificial Intelligence-driven surveillance tools, including the Red Wolf, the latest experimental surveillance tool deployed against Palestinians.

The organization said that “the Israeli authorities are using an experimental facial recognition system known as Red Wolf to track Palestinians and automate harsh restrictions on their freedom of movement, while documenting “how Red Wolf is part of an ever-growing surveillance network which is entrenching the Israeli government’s control over Palestinians, and which helps to maintain Israel’s system of apartheid. Red Wolf is deployed at military checkpoints in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, where it scans Palestinians’ faces and adds them to vast surveillance databases without their consent.

AI also documented “how Israel’s use of facial recognition technology against Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem has increased, especially in the wake of protests and in the areas around illegal colonial settlements. In both Hebron and occupied East Jerusalem, facial recognition technology supports a dense network of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras to keep Palestinians under near-constant observation. Automated Apartheid shows how this surveillance is part of a deliberate attempt by Israeli authorities to create a hostile and coercive environment for Palestinians, with the aim of minimizing their presence in strategic areas.”

“The Israeli authorities are using sophisticated surveillance tools to supercharge segregation and automate apartheid against Palestinians. In the H2 area of Hebron, we documented how a new facial recognition system called Red Wolf is reinforcing draconian restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, using illegitimately acquired biometric data to monitor and control Palestinians’ movements around the city,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem and Hebron told us how omnipresent surveillance cameras have invaded their privacy, repressed activism, eroded social life, and left them feeling constantly exposed. In addition to the constant threat of excessive physical force and arbitrary arrest, Palestinians must now contend with the risk of being tracked by an algorithm, or barred from entering their own neighbourhoods based on information stored in discriminatory surveillance databases. This is the latest illustration of why facial recognition technology, when used for surveillance, is incompatible with human rights.”

AI called on the Israeli authorities to end the mass and targeted surveillance of Palestinians and lift the arbitrary restrictions they have imposed on Palestinians’ freedom of movement across the OPT, as necessary steps towards dismantling apartheid.

AI also called for a global ban on the development, sale and use of facial recognition technology for surveillance purposes. The organization has recently documented human rights risks linked to facial recognition technology in India and the US, as part of its Ban the Scan campaign.

Automated Apartheid focuses on Hebron and East Jerusalem, the only cities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with Israeli colonial settlements inside their bounds. The report is based on evidence gathered during 2022 field research, including interviews with Palestinian residents; analysis of open-source material; and testimony from current and former Israeli military personnel. This testimony was provided by the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence, and was used to corroborate Amnesty International’s findings on how Israel’s facial recognition systems operate.

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