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The attempted arrest, which resulted in the killing of the teen, is the outcome of Israel’s intensive digital surveillance.
On the 13th May, Zaid Fadl Qaisia, a 15-year old teenager, was murdered in a raid held by the Israeli forces in the West Bank. Four further minors were shot. The raid was aimed at arresting the adolescent, who was accused of having insulted an Israeli soldier on Facebook; the supervision of Palestinians through Facebook is one of the milder ways through which the Israeli government maintains control and surveillance over its public.
Not only the West Bank, but also Gaza and East Jerusalem have been exploited as experiment fields to test and develop new tools of digital surveillance. The Israeli company Mer Security, founded in 1948 as a metal workshop, has now focused its security division on exporting surveillance products. One of the products developed by the firm is the Strategic Actionable Intelligence Platform (SAIP), which enables the user to create an avatar in order to collect data from closed forums. Similarly, the Israeli Police are suspected of having used fake Facebook profiles to monitor Palestinians and other targets of investigations.
Israel is well known to be a globally prominent figure in the surveillance industry, having technology as a central industry sector in its economy. In 2014, 6 billion dollars worth of products and services have been exported by the MER Group. The close connection between private firms such as the group and the Israeli intelligence, such as Unit 8200, is not surprising. The skills of cyber-espionage gained in Unit 8200 are applied by veterans in one of the 27 private surveillance companies in Israel.
Digital technology does not have an evil nature, per se, nor benign. However, if used for political purposes, specifically for maintaining control over people through denying their freedom, digital technologies such as artificial intelligence assume a negative connotation, becoming a threat to democracy and human rights. It is now urgent that we renovate current domestic and international policies in order to enhance digital technology’s potential to ameliorate human life and prevent the further violation of human rights.
- Is digital technology compatible with democracy?
- Is Israel using digital surveillance in the occupied Palestinian territories in order to preserve its power? Does AI, used for this specific purpose, prevent Palestinians to gain independence?
- What regulations should be implemented in order to prevent democratic countries from exploiting AI for surveillance purposes?