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Israeli firm develops facial recognition technology for soldiers

Israeli forces in the West Bank on 4 January 2022 [Mamoun Wazwa/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli forces in the West Bank on 4 January 2022 [Mamoun Wazwa/Anadolu Agency]

An Israeli firm is developing body cameras with facial recognition technology for Israeli forces.

Built by Yozmot, a strategic planning firm owned by former Israeli army chief, Colonel Dany Tirza, the technology will enable forces to scan crowds and detect suspects in real-time, even if their faces are obscured, and build a database of such identities.

"The policeman will know who he is facing," Tirza told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He said he partnered with Tel Aviv-based Corsight AI to develop the technology, which ​​he claimed Australian and British police were already piloting.

However, Corsight CEO, Rob Watts, refused to confirm the collaboration with Yozmot, according to AFP, but said that it was working with some 230 "integrators" worldwide who incorporated facial recognition software into cameras.

"What we want to do is promote facial recognition as a force for good," he said.

Facial recognition in law enforcement has sparked global criticism, with tech giants in the United States backing away from providing the technology to police, citing privacy risks.

READ: Israel soldiers will not be prosecuted after death of elderly US-Palestinian 

Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM have all declared temporary or permanent freezes on selling facial recognition programmes to law enforcement.

Israel's use of surveillance and facial recognition appear to be among the most elaborate deployments of such technology by a country seeking to control a subject population, according to experts with the digital civil rights organisation, AccessNow.

Israeli soldiers participated in a competition in 2019 to see who could capture the highest number of photos of Palestinian faces, including those of children and the elderly, and the Washington Post said that "at a minimum," the total number of pictures collected "ran well into the thousands."

Some Palestinians, particularly older women, reportedly resisted having their pictures taken, but soldiers would force them to comply.

The newspaper based its reporting on interviews with six former Israeli soldiers. All spoke to either the Post or the "Breaking the Silence" advocacy group on condition of anonymity, for fear of potential repercussions.

Watts added that his company hired Tony Porter, the UK's former surveillance camera commissioner, as chief privacy officer, and that the software would blur or delete faces of people who are not of interest within seconds.

"Why do I need a credit card? I don't, I've got a face," he said. "The consumer will very, very quickly and readily adopt facial recognition because it's easy."

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