The thing most people fear about the spread of facial recognition from China

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The dark side of facial recognition, long warned by privacy and human rights advocates, is gaining momentum. The latest controversy concerns Iran, but China exports its surveillance products and prowess.

Iran, a fundamentalist theocracy, uses algorithms to identify and arrest women who do not wear the hijab and anyone who protests against strict new edicts forcing women to wear the hijab, according at the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

The Guardian has reported that the seat of the government for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice particularly monitors the cameras of the public transport system of the country.

A young woman from rural northwest Iran was reportedly arrested in the capital, Tehran, last week for avoiding the headscarf.

It is not known if biometric surveillance spotted her, but it is known that she fell into a coma and died after her arrest. Local police say they had no role in the incident.

All over Iran and around the world, people are protesting against the woman’s death and the government policies behind it.

The hijab has been officially compulsory since a religious coup in 1979 brought fundamentalists to power. But, until recently, government and society had leaned lightly on women and men who resisted modesty laws, which also prohibited women from cutting their hair short.

A woman in Tehran – an IT specialist – is cited in the Thomson Reuters article saying, “cameras are everywhere and when they catch you you get a text from the police.”

A US-based Iranian digital rights group, Miaan Group, also interviewed by the publisher, supports the woman’s account. Systems presented as fighting crime are now fighting religious disobedience.

The Iranian government has the infrastructure to see and arrest people based on automated decisions from facial recognition algorithms supported by comparisons with biometric ID cards, according to The Guardian newspaper.

The national cards, which have been circulating since 2015, would contain the usual information as well as face, iris and fingerprint scans. Iran Press Watch advocacy group describe last year, smart cards also stored health status and religious and ethnic background. National identity cards are necessary for such basic tasks as opening an Internet service account.

The facial recognition crackdown seems like a good deal for Iran and its suppliers.

UID an Iranian digital identification and biometrics company, has signed a cooperation agreement with Iranian law enforcement to provide its UID liveness detection authentication platform. The facial biometrics solution will assist the agency in its policing improvement efforts, an ongoing technology overhaul of all units that includes the adoption of intelligence systems and equipment.

Security and surveillance technology IPVM a reported (subscription required and recommended) on direct sales of visual surveillance to reactionary sectors of the Iranian government by one of China’s most successful system manufacturers.

If, as is usually the case, levels of research are correlated with technology and product development, China has a global advantage in visual surveillance markets, according to precedents. Biometric update reports.

IPVM reports suggests that China-based Tiandy sells systems, among other Iranian government control units, to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Sepah.

Tiandy, with annual revenue of $688 million in 2020, according to security industry publisher a&s, was allegedly involved in several projects in Iran. In fact, it may be the only major Chinese manufacturer of visual surveillance products with a physical presence in Iran selling to the government.

The company in November 2021 signed a five-year partnership agreement with an Iranian distributor to sell visual surveillance systems, according to IPVM.

Article topics

biometric identification | biometrics | China | facial recognition | Iran | Tiandy | UID | video surveillance

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