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Tested on Palestinians: Israel hopes to export ‘pre-emptive’ policing

Israeli forces brutally arrest a Palestinian teenager [Muammar Awad/Apaimages]

In recent years, Israeli authorities have carried out dozens of “pre-emptive” arrests of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, on the basis of so-called intelligence gathered from big data technology and surveillance. Now, Israel is keen to export this approach globally.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Associated Press (AP) said he plans on sharing Israel’s experience at an security conference this week, whose participants include US Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, as well as officials from Belgium, Germany, Kenya, Singapore and Spain.

According to AP, a main “goal of the conference is to rally support for concerted pressure on the social media companies to do a better job of policing content.”

Israeli occupation forces routinely raid Palestinian communities and detain Palestinians who are then interrogated incommunicado and tortured. Palestinians from the West Bank are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, who have a 99 per cent conviction rate.

READ: Israel’s most famous human shield is its defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman 

Israeli authorities claim to have detained more than 200 Palestinians “by monitoring social media and sifting through vast amounts of data to identify prospective assailants ahead of time”, said AP.

According to AP, “these pre-emptive actions put Israel at the forefront of an increasingly popular — and controversial — trend used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world.”

Erdan said that Israeli occupation authorities use “facial recognition devices and smart cameras that detect suspicious behaviour in real time”, and also “scour” social media “for objectionable content and to identify attackers before they act”.

“You have to look for the special words that might lead you to the conclusion that something is dangerous,” Erdan told AP. “The algorithm leads you to suspect someone.”

READ: Israel arrests Palestinian music band for ‘producing songs that incite to resistance’ 

Speaking to AP, Andrew Ferguson, a professor at the David A. Clark School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, “said Israel appears to be one of the world leaders in using big data for policing activity”, with some US police departments beginning to use similar techniques.

“You may be seeing the future in Israel,” said Ferguson, author of “The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement”.

“Israel is at the cutting edge of using this technology in ways that we haven’t seen in other countries, partly because other countries have been concerned about pushback from civil liberties groups.”

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