Google is providing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning capabilities to the Israeli government, through its controversial “Project Nimbus” contract, reported The Intercept.
“The project is intended to provide the government, the defence establishment and others with an all-encompassing cloud solution,” the Ministry said in its announcement.
According to The Intercept, training documents and videos obtained through a publicly accessible educational portal intended for Nimbus users, reveal Google is providing the Israeli government with machine-learning and AI tools, including facial detection, automated image categorisation, object tracking and even sentiment analysis that claims to assess the emotional content of pictures, speech and writing, through Google Cloud Platform.
Jack Poulson, the Director of the watchdog group, Tech Inquiry, who shared the portal’s address with The Intercept, said, “The former head of Security for Google Enterprise — who now heads Oracle’s Israel branch — has publicly argued that one of the goals of Nimbus is preventing the German government from requesting data relating on the Israel Defence Forces for the International Criminal Court.”
“Given Human Rights Watch’s conclusion that the Israeli government is committing ‘crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’ against Palestinians, it is critical that Google and Amazon’s AI surveillance support to the IDF be documented to the fullest,” he added.
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.”
“Living under a surveillance state for years taught us that all the collected information in the Israeli/Palestinian context could be securitised and militarised,” said Mona Shtaya, a digital rights advocate at 7amleh.
“Image recognition, facial recognition, emotional analysis, among other things will increase the power of the surveillance state to violate Palestinian right to privacy and to serve their main goal, which is to create the Panopticon feeling among Palestinians that we are being watched all the time, which would make the Palestinian population control easier.”
The massive $1.2 billion contract known as Project Nimbus is one of Israel’s largest technology infrastructure ventures. The contract was signed with the Israeli military last May, following a bid in which it beat other giants like Microsoft. Google and Amazon to provide cloud services technology to Tel Aviv and its armed forces.