The Middle East and Facial Recognition

June 12, 2019

How many times has science fiction been called stuff and nonsense, but the genre has actually predicted many things that are commonplace today? One thing that used to be make believe is facial recognition technology. US right advocates have successfully banned the technology in some parts of the country, but facial recognition developers are taking their creations to “friendlier” locals. Buzz Feed News shares where in the article, “Facial Recognition Technology Is Facing A Huge Backlash In The US. But Some Of The World’s Biggest Tech Companies Are Trying To Sell It In The Gulf.”

While the US is saying no way, Chinese and American facial recognition purveyors take their wares to Dubai. The biggest sellers are IBM, Hikvision, and Huawei. In the US, opposers to the technology state it could be used for social control, but Dubai is located in the United Arab Emirates where citizens are more under the government’s thumb. Hacking software is already used to spy on political dissidents, potential criminals, and journalists. While Dubai is heralded as a futuristic city, it is still in the heart of fundamentalist Islam territory. Theocracies are not known to be tolerant of “unreligious” behaviors.

“Police in Dubai have begun rolling out an ambitious program, dubbed Oyoon, the Arabic word for “eyes,” that will implement facial recognition and analysis driven by artificial intelligence across the city. Police say the program will reduce crime as well as traffic accidents. An analysis of hundreds of government procurement and regulatory documents make clear the scope of Dubai’s high-tech policing ambitions, showing the police have sought video analytics platforms meant to record and analyze people’s faces, voices, behavior, and cars in the time it takes to do a Google search. And a review of dozens of company marketing materials and interviews with officials show global tech giants are eager to provide the police with the technology they are seeking.”

Dubai police favor facial and voice recognition technology and use it to monitor potential threats through a central command center. There have already been three hundred arrests with the technology. Several UAE government agencies support using the technology to monitor its citizens. Like any sort of technology, it can be used for good or bad.

Dubai has the most political prisoners per capita I the world and the UAE prides itself on keeping order.

“‘They focus on preventative surveillance,’ said Joe Odell, a campaigner at the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE. It’s about control to prevent street mobilizations through establishing a wide-reaching surveillance state, where they can nip anything in the bud before it even happens. They’ve spent millions of pounds on that.’”

The UAE does not like anyone that opposes its government and goes after even the most peaceful protesters. It is an authoritarian government armed with technology that is so strange it can only be true. Here is some advice: do not do anything stupid to anger the UAE if you visit.

Whitney Grace, June 12, 2019

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