KFAR ADUMIM: Twenty years after he planned the controversial barrier between Israel and the Palestinians, Dany Tirza is developing a security tool that requires no cement: body cameras with facial recognition technology.

Tirza, a former Israeli army colonel, says his company, Yozmot Ltd, aims to produce a body-worn camera enabling police to scan crowds and detect suspects in real time, even if their faces are obscured.

Facial recognition in law enforcement has sparked global criticism, with US tech giants backing away from providing the technology to police, citing privacy risks.

Proponents including Tirza, however, tout its ability to track down criminals or missing persons.

“The policeman will know who he is facing,” he said.

Tirza, 63, spoke from his home in Kfar Adumim, a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

He said he hopes to use technology made by Tel Aviv-based Corsight AI to develop a body-worn police camera that could instantly identify people in a crowd, even if they wear masks, make-up or camouflage, and could match them to photographs dating back decades.

Tirza said no partnership agreement between Yozmot and Corsight has been signed.

Corsight CEO Rob Watts did not confirm any specific collaborations, but said his company was working with some 230 “integrators” worldwide who incorporated facial recognition software into cameras.

The technology allows clients to build databases, whether of company employees allowed into a building, ticket holders permitted into a stadium, or suspects wanted by the police, Watts said.

He said Australian and British police were already piloting the technology.

The facial recognition industry was worth about $3.7 billion in 2020, according to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, which projected growth to $11.6 billion by 2026.

Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM have all declared temporary or permanent freezes on selling facial recognition programmes to law enforcement.

France last month ordered the US-based Clearview AI to delete data on its citizens, saying the company violated privacy when it built a facial recognition database using images “scraped” from the internet.

Watts called Clearview’s actions “abhorrent” and said Corsight AI did not sell to China, Russia or Myanmar because of “human rights and ethics”.

“What we want to do is promote facial recognition as a force for good,” he said.

He said Corsight had hired Tony Porter, the United Kingdom’s former surveillance camera commissioner, as chief privacy officer, and the software would blur or delete faces deemed not of interest within seconds.

Corsight AI was valued at $55 million in a recent funding round, Watts said, estimating this would grow to $250 million by year’s end and noting the technology’s potential.

Surveillance technology developed in Israel has a chequered history.

The NSO Group, founded by Israeli military intelligence veterans, makes the Pegasus software that can spy on mobile phones.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2022

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