More countries using AI to track citizens

Several more countries have reportedly followed the lead of China in using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to monitor the movements of people in their country.

At least 75 countries are currently actively using AI tools such as facial recognition for surveillance, says a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a US-based think-tank on foreign policy with centers in various capitals around the world. The index of countries where some form of AI surveillance is used includes liberal democracies such as the United States and France, as well as several more autocratic regimes.

A survey of public records and media reports show that Chinese tech companies led by Huawei and Hikvision are supplying much of the AI surveillance technology to countries around the world. Other companies such as Japan’s NEC and U tech majors IBM and Cisco are also major international providers of AI surveillance tools.

The report encompasses a broad range of AI tools that have some public safety component. The index does not distinguish between legitimate public safety tools and unlawful or harmful uses such as spying on political opponents. While many of the projects cited in the report are ‘smart city’ systems in which a municipal government installs an array of sensors, cameras and other internet-connected devices to gather information and communicate with one another to manage traffic or save energy, it is increasingly being used for public surveillance and security.

Citizens, at least those living in liberal democracies, need to ask tougher questions about how this type of technology is being used by their governments, and examine the impacts it has on privacy of individuals.