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Facial recognition technology used by Israel to ‘supercharge segregation and automate apartheid,’ says Amnesty

ISRAEL is using an experimental facial recognition system to “supercharge segregation and automate apartheid,” Amnesty International general secretary Agnes Callamard warns today.

The liberal charity is publishing a new report, Automated Apartheid, detailing an “ever-growing surveillance network” entrenching the Israeli government’s control of Palestinians.

“In both Hebron [in the occupied West Bank] and occupied East Jerusalem, facial recognition technology supports a dense network of 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,” the rights organisation says.

The experimental Red Wolf surveillance system is used to track Palestinians and automate restrictions on their movements, the report finds.

When a Palestinian goes through a checkpoint at which Red Wolf is operating, their face is scanned without their knowledge and compared with biometric entries in databases which exclusively contain information about Palestinians.

Red Wolf uses this data to determine whether an individual can pass a checkpoint and automatically biometrically enrols any new face it scans. If no entry exists for an individual, they will be denied passage.

And Amnesty says the monitoring of the Palestinian population has become “gamified,” with another system, known as Blue Wolf, operated through an app and generating rankings based on the number of Palestinians registered.

Israeli commanders reportedly gave prizes to battalions with the highest score, incentivising troops to keep Palestinians under constant observation.

The app allows Israeli soldiers to pull up information on Palestinians stored in a huge database called Wolf Pack.

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“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,” Ms Callamard says.

“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.”

Fears over the use of facial recognition technology have been raised in India, China and the United States, with Amnesty launching a Ban the Scan campaign internationally calling for a global moratorium on the development, sale and use of such technology for surveillance purposes.

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