Though Israel has been a consistent cyber security and facial recognition leader throughout the world, the Israeli Defense Forces have only just recently started using facial-recognition software to help monitor and secure their borders. In an IDF statement released in February, confirmation was given of a rollout plan to 27 checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank.
Israel spent 4.3 percent of its gross domestic product on civil research and development in 2015—the highest ratio in the world. Israel’s tech sector is the envy of the planet, and every developed military is looking for assistance from Israel with help on their technology.
The system is called Speed Gate, and the IDF believes that it will appeal to Palestinians who do not want to interact with an armed soldier on a daily basis. The actual process will be quite simple: A Palestinian will walk up to the gate, place his or her ID card on the scanner, and then stare into the camera so that his face can be confirmed. The whole process, which takes a few seconds, should allow for a much more efficient crossing of the border for both Palestinians and Israelis living in the West Bank.
This technology has come under negative press scrutiny as Palestinians have complained about the Israeli government having too much knowledge and control over their lives. Also, China is creating a lot of negative sentiment by using the technology to monitor their Muslim population. Critics are ripping on this program as a problematic invasion of privacy. They see a slippery slope being established where more and more personal privacy will be given up by the expanded use of facial recognition.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s director of technology and liberty project Shankar Narayan told Forbes magazine that “he’d held meetings with Microsoft in Seattle last year in which the tech giant appeared receptive to ideas on holding back the spread of facial recognition. But the company has not followed through with any action.” Microsoft has publicly sounded the alarm about the dangers of facial-recognition software proliferating through society.
Microsoft has published numerous blogs denouncing the potential loss of personal freedoms, yet has continued to invest in facial recognition. Palestinians have complained about the Israeli military having too much control over their whereabouts.
Despite the concerns of critics, this is a highly accurate technology that can eventually be deployed to highways to read faces in cars, airports and all major international crossings. Since human faces are extremely unique with thousands of subtle features that can be numerically classified by an Ai facial-recognition software, they are easy to distinguish. Passports and documents can be falsified, but thousands of specific facial features are almost impossible to fake, despite however many “Mission Impossible” movies one watches.
The IDF has selected Ai firm AnyVision, partially owned by Microsoft to deploy the technology. AnyVision is an ideal partner since its technology can work even on independent camera feeds, in addition to the 1,700 cameras the IDF deployed this year in the occupied territories. AnyVision boasts a 99.9 percent success ratio—one that would make life safer and easier, though nothing is free in this world, and certain personal liberties must be given up for the sake of a safer and more efficient society.
To compare Israel’s use of facial recognition to provide a safer and more convenient crossing for Palestinians cannot be compared to the Chinese, who are using this technology in a terribly oppressive manner. While the Chinese Muslim population is restricted in every aspect of their lives by the state, Israel is trying to do the opposite for the Palestinians. This technology will allow the Palestinian people to have more convenient lives with safer border crossing.
Singapore will put facial-recognition software on every lamp post; England is rolling out facial-recognition software at their airports; and the 2020 Olympic Games will use facial-recognition software to manage all of their athletes and ticket-holders entering and exiting facilities. Facial recognition is becoming a part of our global society, whether we like it or not.
Alexander Fleiss is the CEO of Artificial Intelligence financial platform RebellionResearch.com, currently with clients in 44 countries. He has taught AI at Yale Business School, as well as Princeton and Columbia universities.