The Ministerial Legislation Committee on Sunday approved a bill regulating the use of facial recognition cameras in public spaces. Under the bill, the defense establishment would have access to information captured by the cameras and would be able to use it without a court order.
The bill aims “to regulate aspects of the installation and use by the Israel Police of special photographic systems in the public space. … These are photographic systems that are capable of focusing on objects or various biometric properties, taking a picture of them, and comparing it to the pictures in the database in a manner that makes it possible to identify the object or person being photographed if there is a previous, identified image of him in the database.”
The bill lists the following objectives for the installation and operation of the photographic systems: detection and prevention of criminal offenses or of offenses that may endanger law and order or national security; prevention of serious harm to life or property; locating a missing person; enforcement of bans on entry into public places granted by law; and enforcement of restraining orders.
The glaring problem with the bill is its reliance on the police in guaranteeing the facial recognition data won’t be misused. Not only are the courts not involved in monitoring the potential abuse of these data, but the police are also assigned the role of keeping the data “in a way that would ensure protection against information leaking from the database or being hacked, as well as against transfer, exposure, deletion, alteration, or copying without legal permission.”
It’s the Israel Police we’re talking about, right? The Israel Police that, as rumors would have us believe (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), keeps files on everybody, to be used against them when the need arises. The bill actually states that the police “would ensure the protection of the privacy of individuals to whom said information is related.”
Did they manage to write this with a straight face, or were they ROFLing all over the office?
Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata was the only committee member who objected to the proposed bill, undoubtedly because she’s Ethiopian and has witnessed police dedication to individual rights in her neighborhood growing up. As she put it in kind language: “When a police officer can post a biometric camera in every neighborhood, there’s an opening for the exploitation and over-enforcement in certain populations,” she argued.
In Philly, under Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo, they used to call it “resisting harassment.”
Tamano-Shata also raised the argument that these facial recognition cameras are really bad at distinguishing one black face from another, to put it bluntly, resulting in false accusations and unnecessary arrests of folks whose skin happens to be darker.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who has been on a tear recently to uproot some fundamental processes of Israeli Law (Knesset About to Vote on Istanbul Convention Trojan Horse that Undermines Israel’s Immigration Policies) belittled Tamano-Sheta’s claims and insisted: “When it comes to eradicating terrorism, I take the invasion of privacy with a grain of salt. [After all] it’s a public space.”
Yes, it is, just like those alleys in Ethiopian neighborhoods where the cops regularly beat the daylight out of dark-skinned youths – while a dozen phones are recording.
The other groups the police would be using these cameras on intensively are demonstrators, right-wingers, left-wingers, Haredim, Arabs, and knitted yarmulkes. They’ll be recorded and filed away for future use, despite the complete absence of criminal intent in their rightful political protest.
The Association for Civil Rights stated that “the draft bill not only allows the police to receive alerts about wanted persons but also to collect and store personal information about innocent citizens, without a court order and without supervision. The bill endangers the freedom of citizens and their right not to be surveilled.”