CNBC reports that Ukraine will be using Clearview AI Facial Recognition. The date of their publication is 13th March 2022. There are compelling arguments on both sides of this issue. We have created the following video to explore the pros and cons of the technology in this particular war scenario.

On the positive side, these systems could provide better security at checkpoints, identify dead bodies, and provide protection against saboteurs. We’ve all heard about the Wagner group going after president Zelensky. This type of computer system would add another layer of security to protect him and other strategically important people and targets.

On the downside, remember who you are up against, which is a nation reputed for its hackers. Imagine if they started to tamper with the system to put your own staff on the watch lists and stop their people from being identified? You would seriously need to beef up IT systems. Moving onto another issue. When facial recognition systems are operated in pristine environments, such as airport terminals for passport scanning, they can deliver impressively low error rates. The rates can be well below 1%. However, out in the real world, when using CCTV, drone footage, or lousy lighting conditions, the accuracy can drop significantly and, in some cases, by more than half. So why should we care about accuracy rates? Well, if your struggle is defined by the unity of your people and the common fight, the last thing you want to do is falsely accuse them of acting against you. You would be dividing your population and sowing mistrust at precisely the moment when you need all hands on deck.

As you can probably already see, you wouldn’t want to rush into this kind of system without suitable precautions, especially if you compare it to what happened in Afghanistan. When the Kabul government fell, guess who got access to the data, printed off lists and set up kill squads? Spoiler alert, the Taliban. (See Technology review website 30 August)

While we can all have deep sympathies with the current struggle, dropping your guard on privacy issues, especially in a time of war, can have a significant down the road impact. (The Afghan experience and the loss of who controls your biometrics are cautionary tales.)