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Israel face-recognition start-up ‘secretly tracking Palestinians’

Palestinians cross Qalandiya checkpoint to perform the first Friday Prayer of Islamic holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Ramallah, West Bank on 10 May, 2019 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians cross Qalandiya checkpoint to perform Friday Prayer during Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on 10 May, 2019 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

A start-up known as “Israel’s most high-profile biometric recognition firm” is playing a key role in monitoring Palestinians at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, reported Haaretz.

According to the article, Anyvision Interactive Technologies “is taking part in two special projects in assisting the Israeli army in the West Bank”.

One project “involves a system that it has installed at army checkpoints that thousands of Palestinians pass through each day on their way to work from the West Bank.”

In a statement in February, the army said “27 biometric crossings” had been established in the West Bank, as part of a “wide-ranging” effort to “upgrade” the checkpoints in question.

The second project, however, “is much more confidential”, reported Haaretz, and “includes facial recognition technology elsewhere in the West Bank, not just at border crossings”, as “cameras deep inside the West Bank try to spot and monitor potential Palestinian assailants”.

Anyvision’s president, Amir Kain, is the former head of Malmab, the Defence Ministry’s security department, while one of the company’s advisers is Tamir Pardo, a former head of Mossad.

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The company claims to operate in 43 countries and at more than 350 locations such as stadiums, airports and casinos, and recently raised $31 million from Microsoft’s M12 venture capital fund.

As reported by Haaretz, “Anyvision’s involvement in the West Bank is being revealed amid a lively debate around the world on the use of biometric technology, especially facial recognition.”

“About a month ago, San Francisco became the first American city to outlaw facial recognition technology. And camera maker Axon recently decided to eliminate its products’ facial recognition capacity, based on the recommendations of an ethics committee that it had formed.”

According to the paper, “the Israeli surveillance operation in the West Bank is undoubtedly among the largest of its kind in the world. It includes monitoring the media, social media and the population as a whole — and now it turns out also the biometric signature of West Bank Palestinians.”

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