The spread of police surveillance tech

0 9

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A brain wave reader that can detect lies. Miniaturized cameras that sit inside vape pens and disposable coffee cups. Massive video cameras that zoom in more than a kilometer to capture faces and license plates.

At a police conference in Dubai in March, new technologies for the security forces of the future were up for sale. Far from the eyes of the general public, the event provided a rare look at what tools are now available to law enforcement around the world: better and harder-to-detect surveillance, facial recognition software that automatically tracks individuals across cities and computers to break into phones.

Advances in artificial intelligence, drones and facial recognition have created an increasingly global police surveillance business. Israeli hacking software, American investigation tools and Chinese computer vision algorithms can all be bought and mixed together to make a snooping cocktail of startling effectiveness.

Fueled by a surge of spending from Middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates, the conference’s host and an aggressive adopter of next-generation security technologies, the event pointed to how tools of mass surveillance once believed to be widespread only in China are proliferating. The rising use of the technologies signals an era of policing based as much on software, data and code as officers and weaponry, raising questions about the effects on people’s privacy and how political power is wielded.

“A lot of surveillance could ostensibly be benign or used to improve a city,” said Daragh Murray, a senior lecturer of law at Queen Mary University in London who has studied police use of technology. “But the flip side of the coin is it can give you incredible insight into people’s everyday lives. That can have an unintended chilling effect or be a tool for actual repression.”

The gold rush was evident at a convention center in the heart of downtown Dubai, where uniformed police representatives from around the world browsed drones that could be launched and powered up remotely. Chinese camera makers showed software to identify when crowds gather. American companies like Dell and Cisco had booths offering police services. Cellebrite, an Israeli maker of systems to break into mobile phones, exhibited inside a “government zone” blocked off from the rest of the conference.

Other companies sold facial recognition eyeglasses and sentiment analysis software, in which an algorithm determines a person’s mood from facial expressions. Some products, like a Segway with a rifle mount, pushed the limits of practicality.

“Nowadays, the police force, they don’t think about the guns or weapons that they’re carrying,” said Maj. Gen. Khalid Alrazooqi, the Dubai Police’s general director of AI. “You’re looking for the tools, the technology.”

With its deep pockets, serious security challenges and autocratic government, the UAE, an important U.S. ally in the Middle East, has become a case study in the potential, and risks, of such policing technologies. The tools can help stop crime and terror attacks but can also become an undemocratic buttress of political power.

Under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, often referred to by his initials MBZ, Emirati authorities have surveilled critics and activists. Amnesty International and other groups have accused the oil-rich country of human rights abuses against adversaries, including using the Pegasus phone spyware made by the NSO Group of Israel. Protests and free expression in the authoritarian monarchy are severely limited, part of what the government has said is an effort to combat Islamic extremism.

One tech firm based in the UAE with ties to the country’s leadership, Presight AI, sells software nearly identical to products that are popular with the Chinese police. At the conference, its software used cameras and AI to identify people, store data about their appearance and track their routes as they wandered the event.

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.