Report says AI is helping countries watch its citizens more

Report says AI is helping countries step up citizen surveillance
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has released a report finding a growing number of countries deploying artificial intelligence to track citizens. (Pixabay)

Confirming popular perception that we are being watched, a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that more countries, led by China, are deploying artificial intelligence to monitor the whereabouts of its citizens.

According to the report, at least 75 of 176 countries globally are actively using AI technologies for surveillance purposes. The report said 56 countries are using smart city/safe city platforms, 64 are using facial recognition systems, and 52 are using smart policing.

China’s strong technological base is an enabling factor in the growth of AI surveillance. The report noted that Technology linked to Chinese companies—particularly Huawei, Hikvision, Dahua, and ZTE—supply AI surveillance technology in 63 countries, with Huawei alone is responsible for providing AI surveillance technology to at least 50 countries worldwide. The next largest non-Chinese supplier of AI surveillance tech is Japan’s NEC Corporation, whose technology is being deployed in 14 countries.

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While China’s use of surveillance is not surprising given its reputation for a repressive government, liberal democracies such as the U.S. are also stepping up use of AI surveillance. According to the report, AI surveillance technology supplied by U.S. firms is present in 32 countries. The most significant U.S. companies are IBM, Palantir, and Cisco (six countries). Similarly, France, Germany, Israel and Japan have also stepped up their use of AI surveillance.  

In fact, countries considered democratic are more likely to deploy AI surveillance systems—51% to be exact—said the report. By contrast, the report noted 37% of closed autocratic states deploy AI surveillance technology. The report contends that governments in full democracies are deploying surveillance technology for collecting information and not for mass surveillance and repressive purposes.

The report also noted a strong relationship between a country’s military expenditures and a government’s use of AI surveillance systems, as 40 of the world’s top 50 military spending countries (based on cumulative military expenditures) also use AI surveillance technology.

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