The UAE’s efforts to fight the Corona Virus pandemic have renewed questions about the extensive surveillance programs that the authorities operate in public places, and their relationships to protect privacy and protect freedoms.
Experts believe that the UAE is one of the most densely populated countries in the world in terms of the number of surveillance cameras compared to the population, and extends from the streets of Abu Dhabi to the commercial centers in Dubai, and covers many areas, including monitoring of car plates and identifying the faces of pedestrians in the streets.
Last May, Brigadier Khaled Nasser Al Marzouqi, Director General of the Department of Artificial Intelligence in Dubai Police, stated that the “Eyes” system will start monitoring the temperature of people and ensure that the social distance is respected for a distance of two meters, and Dubai Police are testing helmets to monitor the pedestrians.
While the UAE authorities insist that surveillance cameras networks are to protect the country from any attacks, this network gives the authorities a repressive tool to stifle any opposition movement in the country, and the researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace Judy Vitori believes that there is no protection of public freedoms in the Emirates because There are simply no public freedoms.
The justifications of the authorities
The American Associated Press said that the Emirati officials did not respond to its requests to comment on the issue of the role of collective surveillance cameras, and after the publication of the agency report, the UAE government sent a statement saying that the law enforcement authorities in the country have advanced systems and technology, the use of which requires an appropriate legal path . The UAE government statement did not clarify the nature of laws and standards that frame the work of surveillance camera networks.
The statement indicates that the surveillance camera is used for purposes related to the Emirati national security, especially facing the threat of terrorism and extremism, adding that these networks helped the country to be among the first countries in the region in terms of security and safety.
On the ground, Dubai authorities have the ability to simultaneously monitor the movements of people in the emirate, and the police can access photos of surveillance cameras at the headquarters of state-owned companies, as well as cameras installed in other buildings.
Eye of the sergeant also affected more than 10,000 taxis in Dubai, and government media in the Emirates have reported after the Mossad assassination of the leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel in early 2010 that the emirate has 25 thousand surveillance cameras .
Dark Mater Company
With the passage of time, the surveillance technology of the UAE authorities has become more developed and able to monitor the movement of people. In the end of 2016, Dubai Police contracted with a Dark Matter company based in Abu Dhabi to use the Pegasus program to manage surveillance cameras in a way that allows the authorities to monitor Anyone inside Dubai.
The UAE's Dark Matter contract with former CIA experts and the National Security Agency has raised concerns about spying on foreigners, especially as the UAE has a proven record of repressing and imprisoning its human rights activists.
In addition to the Emirate of Dubai, the Associated Press reports that it is possible that the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has an extensive network of surveillance cameras, just as the rest of the UAE authorities remaining in the country have their own networks. 140 thousand cameras.
The crackdown on freedoms
The Emirati authorities' monument to a wide network of surveillance cameras comes at a time when laws allow the authorities to control freedom of opinion inside the country, and the last version of the American Freedom House annual report stated that dozens of activists, civil society leaders, academics and students are still being arrested within "A massive crackdown." The organization’s report adds that “the political system gives the rulers of the Emirates control of power, and excludes any possibility of changing the government through elections.”
According to the Associated Press, many of the surveillance cameras and scanners in the UAE are coming from China, and a Chinese company has already announced a contract with the Abu Dhabi authorities to conduct tests to find a vaccine against the Corona virus. In early June, the British Financial Times reported that US embassy officials in Abu Dhabi had rejected an offer from the UAE authorities to conduct checks on the embassy staff for free because of the participation of a Chinese party in the examination program.