Use of AI surveillance technology is becoming the global norm, even in liberal democracies.
Almost half the world’s countries now deploy AI surveillance systems. So says a new report, The Global Expansion of AI Surveillance, from the #Carnegie_Endowment_for_International_Peace (▻https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/09/17/global-expansion-of-ai-surveillance-pub-79847). Such technologies vary from “#smart_city” projects, which use real-time data on residents to aid delivery of public services and enhance policing, to facial recognition systems, to border security, to governments spying on political dissidents.
The main driver is China. The tech company Huawei alone is responsible for providing AI surveillance technology to at least 50 countries. But it’s not just Beijing pushing such technology. Western companies, from IBM to Palantir, are deeply involved. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Huawei is helping create smart cities, Google and Amazon are building cloud computing servers for government surveillance and the UK arms firm BAE is providing mass monitoring systems.
While authoritarian countries are investing heavily in such technology, it is most widespread in democracies. “Liberal democratic governments,” the report observes, “are aggressively using AI tools to police borders, apprehend potential criminals, monitor citizens for bad behaviour and pull out suspected terrorists from crowds.” Projects range from Baltimore’s secret use of drones for daily surveillance of the city’s residents, to Marseille’s mass monitoring project, built largely by the Chinese firm ZTE and given the very Orwellian name of Big Data of Public Tranquility, to the array of advanced surveillance techniques being deployed on the US-Mexico border.
The technologies raise major ethical issues and questions about civil liberties. Yet even before we’ve begun to ask such questions, the technology has become so ubiquitous as to render the debate almost redundant. That should be as worrying as the technology itself.