Imagine you have to pass checkpoints to see your family and to access work, education, and healthcare. Your face is scanned and added to a vast surveillance database without your consent. Now imagine you are the only racial group required to use these checkpoints. This is happening to Palestinians in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. There, witnesses describe coming face to face with a new facial recognition system, Red Wolf. This technology is incompatible with human rights.
What is facial recognition, and why is it bad?
Facial recognition systems are a form of mass surveillance that amplifies racist policing and threatens the right to protest. The technology deepens systemic racism as it disproportionately impacts people of colour, who are already subject to discrimination and violations of their human rights by law enforcement officials.
How is this impacting the lives of Palestinians?
Surveillance creates an environment that forces Palestinians to leave areas of strategic interest to Israeli authorities by making their lives unbearable. In some cases, they intrude into Palestinian families' private homes and bedrooms. As communities resist the expansion of Israeli settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes, their participation in protests, in turn, exposes them to further surveillance.
Why is this important?
With a record of racist acts that maintain a system of apartheid, the Israeli authorities can use facial recognition software – particularly at checkpoints – to crystallise their existing practices of discriminatory policing and segregation, violating Palestinians' fundamental rights.
What needs to happen?
- Stop the deployment of facial recognition technologies for identification against Palestinians in the OPT, including at checkpoints. It must end mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance.
The UK should:
- Regulate companies to ensure they do not provide any surveillance technology that the Israeli authorities can use to maintain its apartheid system over the Palestinians, including maintaining illegal settlements in occupied territory.
- Stop supplying technologies that can be used by the Israeli state to implement a system of apartheid against Palestinians.