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IDF troops photographing Palestinians in Hebron with facial recognition tech — report

Israeli soldiers patrol in the West Bank city of Hebron on May 21, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers patrol in the West Bank city of Hebron on May 21, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces is utilizing advanced facial recognition technology to screen Palestinians in Hebron, building a digital surveillance database of residents of the West Bank city by having soldiers snap photos of them on cellphones, the Washington Post reports.

According to the report, the surveillance initiative has been rolled out over the past two years and is based in part on a smartphone technology called Blue Wolf.

The Washington Post estimates several thousand Palestinians have been photographed for the database, with former soldiers describing to the paper how they were incentivized to take as many photos as possible, including of children, based on a reward system.

The report is based on interviews with soldiers who had previously shared their stories with Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization that gathers and publishes largely anonymous testimonies by former Israeli combat soldiers about alleged human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The newspaper says that while the IDF has acknowledged the existence of the initiative in an online brochure, the interviews with former soldiers offer the first public description of the program’s scope and operations.

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