“Facebook for Palestinians”: Israel’s New Facial Recognition System Raises Major Concerns

Israel’s new facial recognition surveillance system, one that is being used in every corner of the West Bank, is an alarming concern. Israel has devised a surveillance system called the Wolf Pack; a desktop system and a smartphone application that contain personal information of every Palestinian in the West Bank. For a long time, Israel has been collecting this large database with details on every Palestinian citizen, and as of now, is being used in full effect, with Israeli soldiers also expressing concern over it.

Blue Wolf

The Israeli military developed this facial recognition program to track people in the West Bank, claiming it serves as a way to “prevent terrorism.” The new system has smartphone technology called Blue Wolf, a facial recognition program that takes pictures of people in the streets, or, to be concise, Palestinians. The pictures are then cross-referenced with the database by the Blue Wolf system and identifies the individual. Regardless if its a child, an adult or an elderly person, the system knows who they are, their criminal record, and their status.

The smartphones that have Blue Wolf installed in them were distributed to soldiers in Hebron and the West Bank, who are called security volunteers. Once a person is identified, the data of the individual is then reported to soldiers in the area where the picture was taken. They receive a color-coded message on their phone that notifies them if the person should be arrested (red), detained (yellow), or left alone (green).

White Wolf

The other system, White Wolf, is a desktop application which is also connected to the database with profiles of every Palestinian in the West Bank; their pictures, their family history, their education, and a security rating for each one of them. Israeli soldiers use the system to scan Palestinian’s ID’s before they enter the West Bank for work or for other reasons.

The systems have been in development for two years. One former Israeli soldier described the system as a “Facebook for Palestinians,” meaning it knows everything about you, except that this time, you didn’t choose it. However, the program has also been called Hebron Smart City, and was applied last year. The system and cameras have been described as “a set of sensors capable of identifying in real-time what is out of the ordinary and quickly providing the soldiers on the ground with all the relevant information about what is happening.”

With cameras placed all over the West Bank and smartphones with every soldier, the soldiers have also held competitions to see who can get the most pictures of people with rewards, such as taking a day off.

Palestinian homes are monitored 24/7 by the Israeli military’s surveillance system, a major cause for concern, and has made Israeli soldiers uncomfortable as well. One former soldier spoke to the Post and explained that in regards to this matter, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable if they used it in the mall in [my hometown], let’s put it that way. People worry about fingerprinting, but this is that several times over.”

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