Uganda installs Huawei's AI-powered facial recognition surveillance system 'nationwide'

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“The cameras are already transforming modern day policing in Uganda, with facial recognition and artificial intelligence as part of policing and security.” — Ugandan Police.

Welcome to Neuromancer and the movie Brazil.

I absolutely guarantee you this will be abused in every way possible in less than a year.

Brought to you by the country who is using this technology right now to run a small surveillance state at a level never seen before on the Uyghurs minority in China. Now they are just exporting their repression to any small minded government looking for the same solutions the Chinese want.

This is a fundamental assault to human rights and liberty everywhere and this technology should not be used




David Brin, all-around bright guy, scientist, and sci-fi author, wrote an interesting non-fiction book about the surveillance society that was published in '98 called The Transparent Society. I really recommend it, because it’s a unique take.

Even back then he said, it is way too late to stop this, and we have to focus on crafting it in a way that avoids total freaky badness across the board, because it’s (maximal panopticon action) going to happen. In summary, the only way this can kind of work, democratically, is if everybody is watching everybody, and that includes to some degree, the public being very aware of what the governmental surveillance state is up to – watch the watchers, in other words.

I think some governments might take these technologies in that direction, but it’s not very likely, and most instances will fully reinforce authoritarian tendencies, and may indeed steer them toward totalitarianism. It may be too late.

Back in '98, I was a college kid who was trying to get people to understand what “Project Echelon” was about, and what it meant. Everybody I brought this up to thought I was crazy and didn’t give a fuck. Maaaybe if back then people actually had given a fuck, we’d have a chance. Now? I think we’re going to see this stuff more and more, and it may end up pretty ugly.


Considering what’s going on wrt LGBT panic in Uganda, the chinese probably sold the government on their AI by telling them it can detect gay people.


A situation where a country with a per-capita GDP under $800 can afford sophisticated contemporary tech, and picks surveillance gear, seems like a grand compromise between technological optimism and technological pessimism.

In the sense that it leaves everyone unhappy.


My family thought I was actually nuts for years when I was telling them about stuff like Echelon.

After Snowden they apologized.

The thing is even intelligent people don’t believe what you just wrote even though what you just wrote is exactly what is happening. Because it’s so wrong and nobody has a single way to stop it from happening so the only thing people know how to do is sigh and stop thinking about it.

I just bought a new laptop like an hour ago and talked with the company itself before I bought it and had to confirm that it had a physical killswitch for the webcam before I placed my order.

I don’t think anything can stop this march toward totalitarianism through technical malfeasance until people see the direct consequences of what happens when you ignore them. Kind of like one good thing that has happened from Trump is the power of democracy and it’s neglect is made visible when we see what can go wrong

Several cities in Texas are now learning part of that lesson with the ransomware attacks. Maybe some good will come of it with the citizenry waking up to the panoptikon hell our society our world has created


I said at the time he was hopelessly naive and optimistic. I was right. Bezos knows everything about you and me. We know nothing about him. This version if the panopticon puts the little people under surveillance but protects the rich and powerful.

None of his bullshit schemes about aged secrets or fees for privacy or the rest could or will ever be implemented. And he serves the interests of the oppressors by pretending they are real or that there are market solutions.


From “Kill the gays” to Amin to Mugabe levels of corruption to this Uganda has had just about the worst government possible since Independence

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Well… some things. Some thing. :smirk:

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I have no idea what he’s saying on such issues these days. In '98, I feel it was a noble view that it may even be slightly possible to reign in. I wouldn’t characterize his view at the time as being particularly hopeful that it would go down in this more idealized fashion. But then again, it’s been a long time since I read it.

The simple solution though unethical (however one could argue ethics on the side of the powerful are completely non-existent) would be to win over a society worldwide of white hat hackers to expose the bullshit of the powerful when it impacts the real lives of the everyday people negatively, kind of a digital version of Fight Club, but then that brings on its own problems too.

If the panoptikon is going to exist and screw the people of the world I say the people of the world should screw back.

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The combination of Chinese surveillance-state tech and American Xtianist bigotry is going to make Ugandan society far worse than the country’s corrupt politicians could have dreamed.


and yet the monied interests will still be profiting off the people who live there and the resources under their feet. same as ever since the colonialists showed up



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Last I interacted with him in the later days of Google+, he was still generally on board with the radical transparency in the broad strokes, but had scaled back from the utopian vision of it, to treating it as a best of bad outcomes deal. He still seems singularly unwilling to look at how other power differentials make radical transparency amplifies the power of the powerful rather than helping the powerless.

Unfortunately, I suspect that that case would end up going badly in a number of ways even if we granted it some fairly generous assumptions(eg. The Watchers don’t or can’t effectively object to being watched, surveillance doesn’t benefit too much from expertise and economies of scale that would leave the data open to everyone but the super-creepy inferences only open to Google, Facebook; and the NSA, etc.):

It’s certainly the case that bad actors often prefer to operate quietly, and try and/or get away with more when not subject to pushback; but it’s also certainly the case that some people are more vulnerable to transparency than others, often in ways that are synergistic with existing social unpleasantness.

Just ask a cop whose acquittal, or non-indictment, wasn’t hampered by video of him shooting a fleeing, harmless, guy in the back. Or consider whether men or women are more likely to be relentlessly hounded when a sec tape that has one of each makes it into circulation…

Transparency and symmetric surveillance are likely helpful, vs. top-down stuff, in the specific case of “what percentage of the population needs to be genuine loyalists to keep the Broadly Unpopular Despotism from being swept out of power?”; but it doesn’t even slightly look good for anyone whose deeply unpopular tastes, hobbies, or opinions are tolerated only because they are kept quiet; and odds aren’t fantastic for the “we wouldn’t be so hung up about it once we all saw that everyone does it” case, hypocrisy is pretty durable stuff.

Given the overwhelming thrust towards top-down surveillance it’s not like plucky investigative reporters are at any risk, whatsoever, of going too far and tilting us into a panopticon(indeed, we need all the help we can get shedding light in a variety of dark corners); but that is quite different from being optimistic about the outcome of truly ubiquitous availability of surveillance tools in all directions.

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