For surveillance technology, the Middle East and North Africa region is a veritable Wild West in dire need of regulatory oversight, according to a new report from the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC).
According Middle Eastern Eye, the report sounds the alarm about companies in Europe and Israel selling surveillance tools such as facial recognition scanners, unmanned drones and biometric identification systems, to governments in the Middle East and Africa of the North, often for use on migrant populations. It calls for a moratorium on trade in certain technologies by twenty-four military, security and high-tech companies, including biometrics providers IrisGuard and Thales. He also criticizes the companies for not providing clear answers about which biometric products they sell to which countries.
The above companies were among the minority to respond to BHRRC’s inquiries, while others, including Oosto, Idemia, Cisco and Dahua, did not, according to the group.
With few regulations and combined with the increased use of artificial intelligence-based technologies around the world, the risk of surveillance tools being used for human rights abuses is high – and not always in the places which we would expect.
“We have seen how governments increasingly use surveillance technologies exported from the EU or Israel and how these technologies have essentially been used to target human rights activists, journalists in the region” , said Dina Samaro, author of Business and Human Rights Resource. Center report, Middle East Eye told. “But also when it comes to this trend, it hasn’t been limited to targeting activists. It has been used in the context of border control and immigration.
The BHRRC report highlights that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the Middle East and North Africa region remain at high risk of serious human rights violations, ranging from drone surveillance and the massive collection of biometric data in refugee camps to the use of facial recognition. for the racial profiling of vulnerable communities. AI systems such as smart city platforms and smart policing do little to mitigate risk.
Samaro pointed to pending mandatory human rights regulations in the EU that could bring the issues raised in the BHRRC report even more to the fore.
“This represents an opportunity,” he said, “for us in the region to continue pushing for regulation.”
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