Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Big Brother is Alive & Well &...

... living  in Sydney, Australia:

"A leading Australian intelligence company is selling state-of-the-art surveillance technology to Bahrain amid concerns it could be used to target pro-democracy campaigners, according to an investigation by international human rights advocates. Published on Thursday, the report by London-based non-government organisation Bahrain Watch found that iOmniscient, which has its headquarters in Sydney, has since April partnered with US company Pelco and Bahrain's LSS Technologies to provide the Bahrain Interior Ministry with enhanced surveillance equipment. This includes 2000 CCTV cameras and facial recognition software. 'The rollout of this technology means at least one camera for every 650 Bahrainis, allowing nationwide, real-time tracking of the population,' said Bahrain Watch's Travis Brimhall, noting prior use of police video to indict protesters in the Gulf kingdom. 'Given the government's well-established record of targeting opposition and human rights defenders, we fear this will provide an advanced dissident-capture system where anyone found to be speaking out can be recognised and intercepted on a scale previously unseen.'

"Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, was in 2011 the site of mass demonstrations demanding political reform by the country's Shiite majority population. The protests were violently put down by security forces with assistance from neighbouring states [namely, Saudi Arabia], but dissent and repression have persisted...

"A global leader in video analytics, iOmniscient confirmed that it has projects with Bahrain's Interior Ministry to the value of 'several million dollars'. In particular, the company's chief executive, Rustom Kanga, noted the company's facial recognition software provides unique capacities to identify individuals in crowds. However, Dr Kanga said concerns about the misuse of iOmniscient's technology are unwarranted. 'If a person of interest shows up, he can be apprehended by the authorities while the general public is totally protected and their privacy is never compromised,' he said. 'The system essentially helps the human operator to be more effective more quickly, especially in emergencies. Innocent citizens have nothing to worry about'." (Warnings over abuse of Aussie technology, Zoe Holman, Sydney Morning Herald, 25/6/16)


Grappler said...

By chance, MERC, I know something about iOmniscient. I picked up one of their flyers at a trade show a few years ago that promised something that had the same level of feasibility as a perpetual motion machine. I would not be too worried about its products. I have seen several Australian companies promise world-beating face recognition in the last few years. None of them lived up to their promises.

Maggie Gee said...

Hi Merc

This correspondence is not meant as a post/comment for "Big Brother is Alive and Well..." but I can't see any other way of contacting you except via the comments tabs.

NEW: I wanted to let you know of an incident which is relevant to your blog (which I enjoy very much, by the way). The comment, made by an academic, was unbearably upsetting to me as a pro-Palestinian 'activist'. No doubt it would be intolerable to Palestinians.

I'm studying (broadly) international relations and can choose my final (3rd) year electives from various universities. I chose a university in Sydney as the subject topic seemed so engrossing. I won't reveal the subject, but selected 'extrajudicial killings by the state of Israel' as my essay topic. I have just received the comments back on my first short essay. Incredibly, in one comment the marker wrote, "The oPT (occupied Palestinian Territories) are already part of Israel so "annex" is incorrect". Without revealing my thesis statement, I was in part, arguing that Israel's goal is to annex the oPT - (hardly controversial), but I was basically shot down by the tutor with the charge that Palestine is already part of Israel (and therefore, annexation had already occurred).

The right wing bias at Sydney University is, in some circles, fairly well acknowledged, however I did not expect it from this university, and certainly did not expect the tutor to be so explicit, so biased - in print!

The thing that concerns me most is that, whilst I will (enthusiastically) challenge the comment, this tutor/convenor, at a Sydney university, is making such outrageous, unfounded comments about highly contentious issues and may be presenting similar assertions to some unsuspecting student, as truth. Revisionist history/political discourse is 'alive and well'.

You're welcome to email and I'd be happy to discuss or keep you updated. (email: maggie.g748@gmail.com).


Anonymous said...

Not in its current form. I'll amend and resubmit. MG