Artificial Intelligence: Myanmar Said To Deploy AI Surveillance On Protesters

March 19, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News

Fears mount of the emergence of a “digital dictatorship” that will replace leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

On February 1, Myanmar leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown in a coup by the country’s military. Since then the country has been rocked by violent protests and riots as dissenters demanded her return. To quell the “Spring Revolution,” as the civil resistance movement is called, the authorities have detained at least 2175 people and killed at least 183 protesters. Human rights groups allege that the military or police are now using Huawei cameras armed with Chinese facial recognition technology that can scan faces and vehicle license plates in public places, and alert authorities to those on a wanted list. (The Straits Times)

Myanmar: Threat to human liberty

Hundreds of CCTV cameras have been deployed in cities such as Naypyitaw, Yangon, and Mandalay purportedly to check crime and improve governance. However, as the intensity of the protests mounts and the security forces resort to increased violence, it is being feared that the cameras may serve more ulterior motives.

“Even before the protests, the CCTVs were a concern for us, so we would try and avoid them – by taking different routes to go home, for example,” Win Pe Myaing, a protester in Yangon, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We believe the police and the military are using the system to track demonstrations and protests. It’s like a digital dictatorship – the regime is using technology to track and arrest citizens, and that’s dangerous,” he added.

Huawei’s response

When contacted for clarification, Huawei told Human Rights Watch it was providing “standard ICT infrastructure equipment” – information and communications technology, and that the facial and license-plate recognition technology on the cameras was not from Huawei. The company also said it was not involved in the operation of the cameras, nor the storage or processing of their data.

In a desperate measure, some Myanmar activists have resorted to covering up the cameras.

When participating in protests, the protesters wear masks and caps and carry placards positioned over their faces to thwart the facial recognition surveillance.

Related Story: China’s Huawei And Megvii Tested AI To Pinpoint Uighur Muslims

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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