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Palestinians discover camouflaged surveillance device in Ramallah cemetery

Palestinians found a surveillance device planted in concrete at a village cemetery in occupied Ramallah

October 7, 2019 at 4:50 pm

Palestinians found a surveillance device planted in concrete at a village cemetery in occupied Ramallah on Friday.

The surveillance equipment found consisted of a camera, transmitter and a battery which was relaying information from  the site in Kober, a village northwest of Ramallah.

It was destroyed after being located.

According to Ma’an News Agency, the monitoring tool was manufactured by AnyVision, an Israeli company that develops face, body and object-recognition software.

It also develops technology for security and surveillance, mobile authentication, access control and real-world analytics.

Tamer Barghouti, a journalist in Kober, posted a video showing one of the young Palestinian man dismantling the camera and celebrating his discovery.

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The AnyVision startup recently received investment from Microsoft to the tune of $78 million, according to Forbes magazine.

The company said that all of its investors, including Microsoft, were satisfied that the company was a “tool for good”, according to Bloomberg.

However, in mid-July, it has been criticised by human rights campaigners for allegedly carrying out surveillance of Palestinians at West Bank army checkpoints, as well as within Arab communities, causing a wave of criticism of the Microsoft’s investment in the company.

Civil liberties groups have raised alarms about the proliferation of facial recognition tools and their potential misuse by governments.

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Amos Toh, a senior researcher on artificial intelligence at Human Rights Watch, told Forbes: “It’s incumbent on Microsoft to really look at what that means for the human rights risk associated with the investment in a company that’s providing this technology to an occupying power. “

“It’s not just privacy risk but a privacy risk associated with a minority group that has suffered repression and persecution for a long time.”

AnyVision says facial recognition technology can boost public security.

An AnyVision spokesperson claims the company’s facial recognition system “works in the same way and for the same purposes as they do in airports. The other advantage is that they provide an unbiased safeguard at the border to detect and deter persons who have committed unlawful activities.”

Update 08 October 2019 at 11.16, in a statement to MEMO, AnyVision denied any links to the spying device found at the cemetery. “AnyVision was not involved with the device that appears in the YouTube video shared by The Jerusalem Post on October 6, 2019. Stories stating that this technology is sourced from AnyVision are false AnyVision remains deeply dedicated to the ethical and responsible use of these technologies and is a recognized advocate for regulation concerning facial recognition, privacy and user data … AnyVision does not collect or share user data, or discuss partner relationships.”