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Amnesty: Israel increasingly using facial recognition technology to track Palestinians

May 2, 2023 at 1:48 pm

Israeli soldiers block the roads to Beit El after a Jewish settler is injured due to open fire from a passing by car in Ramallah, West Bank on April 25, 2023 [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]

Israel is increasingly using AI-powered facial recognition technology in the occupied West Bank to track Palestinians and restrict their movement through checkpoints without their knowledge or consent, according to an Amnesty report published yesterday.

Following research conducted across the West Bank cities of Hebron and East Jerusalem, Amnesty found the military utilising a camera system called Red Wolf since 2022, deploying it at checkpoints as part of a programme that “relies on databases consisting exclusively of Palestinian individuals’ data.”

The report, titled Automated Apartheid, “shows how this surveillance is part of a deliberate attempt by Israeli authorities to create a hostile and coercive environment for Palestinians,” the rights organisation says.

The experimental Red Wolf surveillance system is used to track Palestinians and automate restrictions on their movements, the report explains. When a Palestinian goes through a checkpoint at which Red Wolf is installed, their face is scanned without their knowledge or consent and compared with biometric entries in databases which exclusively contain information about Palestinians.

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Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said: “The Israeli authorities are using sophisticated surveillance tools to supercharge segregation and automate apartheid against Palestinians. In the H2 area of Hebron, we documented how a new facial recognition system called Red Wolf is reinforcing draconian restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, using illegitimately acquired biometric data to monitor and control Palestinians’ movements around the city.”

In a statement to the New York Times, the Israeli army said it carries out “necessary security and intelligence operations, while making significant efforts to minimise harm to the Palestinian population’s routine activity.”

However, Amnesty said it was “not convinced” of the reasons “which Israel cites as the basis for its treatment of Palestinians, including restricting their freedom of movement, justify the severe restrictions that the Israeli authorities have imposed.”

The cameras are manufactured by a Chinese company called Hikvision, as well as by the Dutch company TKH Security solutions, confirms the report, and are connected to police infrastructure.

This news comes after the Israeli occupation forces were found to have installed an AI-controlled machine gun at a checkpoint in Hebron to track and shoot at Palestinians. Manufactured by Israeli company Smart Shooter, the gun fires stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets, and is also capable of firing tear gas.

Palestinians in Hebron are harassed daily by illegal settlers and occupation soldiers who aim to force them out of their homes in order to establish illegal Jew-only settlements in the area.

The report calls on the international community to regulate companies so that they are prohibited from providing surveillance technologies to Israel and to impose a global ban on weapon sales and military equipment to Israel. “Israeli authorities are using facial recognition technology to entrench apartheid,” the report stresses.

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