"Yet, when SPSC members first campaigned against the Glasgow surveillance system and pointed out its provenance in Israeli military Unit 8200, a council press spokesperson claimed the activists were "anti-Jewish". We have seen how baseless accusations of “anti-semitism” have been used across the UK to stifle free speech on matters related to Israel and Palestine. Has the Israel chilling effect spread to discussions of what is arguably the key UK site in piloting what Police Scotland boasts is the European cutting edge version of automatic facial recognition capability."
Civil rights campaign Liberty is currently promoting a petition to ban police forces and private companies using automatic facial recognition programmes across the UK. This welcome development follows on from Liberty’s efforts to use the courts to rein in police forces that are now using such cameras, software and control centres, often to follow people not suspected of any offence.
Sign the petition here to contribute to the rising public alarm at invasive surveillance which is only one of many challenges to the right to privacy. Members of Parliament from all parties are expressing their fears and they are being joined by trade unionists and high profile performers who are fearful of the ability of authorities to compile mass databases by scanning streets and musical performances to intrude into our private lives in unprecedented ways.
The Liberty petition, however, maintains the consistent blind spot in much of UK media reporting. Police Scotland is almost completely absent from lists of police forces found to be using automatic facial recognition, yet the information has been aired in the Scottish media for many years. The Liberty petition states that UK “Police forces have used live facial recognition technology in public since 2016”. The BBC in May last year, for example, reported that freedom of information requests sent to “to every police force in the UK” had elicited responses from London, South Wales and Leicestershire that they were using or had experimented with automatic facial recognition. Police Scotland presumably did not respond, seemingly keen to avoid unwelcome publicity that might spread awareness of the unique capabilities of the surveillance system deployed in Glasgow.
For a military-grade surveillance system was already deployed onto the streets of Glasgow by June 2014. Israeli NICE Ltd (Neptune Intelligence Computer Engineering) announced from Ra’anana, Israel on June 11th that “Scotland’s largest city is using NICE’s advanced PSIM and video management solutions for daily operations and major events”. Police Scotland were already using “NICE Situator and NiceVision for video management [to] help the city strengthen its daily operations”. Glasgow City Council “confirmed that components of the visual analytics software have been phased into use since April 2015, but the Suspect Search capability was not yet operational”.
Chris Wooten, Executive Vice President of NICE Security Group, welcomed the “continued partnership with “the first city in the UK to earn a ‘Safe City’ status, fully utilizing the capabilities that NICE Situator can provide”. Glasgow City Council claimed that the full capabilities of the system would not be made operational but supplied no details.
According to NICE, their surveillance system has “emotional recognition” capability on top of “state of the art” facial recognition software.
NICE is now wholly owned by Israeli arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems, linked to the Israeli military. David Cameron’s coalition government provided £24 million to finance the Glasgow pilot by Police Scotland to operate the video and audio surveillance on Glasgow streets that monitors and reports 'unusual behaviour'. The NICE website boasts that their system brings together mass data from "multiple sources, including telephones, CCTV video feed, emergency services radio communications, emails, chat, social media, and more".
NICE Systems was established by seven ex-officers who had served in intelligence-gathering Unit 8200 of the Israeli army. In the same year poisonous fruits of this experience were deployed in Glasgow, forty-three Unit 8200 veterans, many still reservists, signed a letter refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories over what they said was abusive gathering of Palestinians’ private information. According to the veterans, Unit 8200 gathered information on subjects’ sexual preferences or health problems so that it “might be used to extort people into becoming informants”.
In 2019 there is widespread and rising fear concerning the malign potential of mass automatic facial recognition programmes – three US cities have banned its use outright, never mind the enhanced version deployed in Glasgow. San Francisco councillors insisted that “We can have security without being a security state. We can have better policing without becoming a police state”.
Yet, when SPSC members first campaigned against the Glasgow surveillance system and pointed out its provenance in Israeli military Unit 8200, a council press spokesperson claimed the activists were "anti-Jewish". We have seen how baseless accusations of “anti-semitism” have been used across the UK to stifle free speech on matters related to Israel and Palestine. Has the Israel chilling effect spread to discussions of what is arguably the key UK site in piloting what Police Scotland boasts is the European cutting edge version of automatic facial recognition capability.
3 October 2019