The authoritarian leaders of Turkey reportedly are using facial recognition algorithms to identify anti-government protestors.
According to news publisher Nordic Monitor, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government appears to be using biometric analysis software to identify people caught in photographs taken at a pair of protests dating back at least seven years.
Based on the reporting, it is unclear if Turkey had deployed public surveillance camera systems at the time. Like many nations, it is developing its own indigenous facial recognition sector.
Politically restive, Turkey has seen four military coups since 1960, and in 2016 another was attempted but failed. The military has been perceived as an active defender of secular democracy in the nation, and some coup members might have been spurred by actions taken by Erdoğan in the years immediately preceding the 2016 uprising.
The government shut down Twitter and YouTube in the early 2010s after popular opposition grew to reported government corruption. Turkey’s largest circulation newspaper, Zaman, was closed in 2016 by Erdoğan to stop its coverage of government actions.
Photos taken of about 50 people in protesting the newspaper’s closing allegedly were processed with face biometrics to find and punish participants, according to Nordic Monitor coverage.
The government also has used facial recognition systems to identify 12 people standing before a courthouse protesting Erdoğan’s decision to close private prep schools, some of which were operated by a political movement led by a Muslim cleric living in the United States.
In 2017, news publisher Vice reported that the United Kingdom had authorized the export of telecommunication interception hardware and other devices to Turkey.
Although a member of NATO, Turkey has fallen in with Russia on a number of issues, some of which are explicitly anti-Western. Russia, of course, is a major buyer and deployer of facial recognition systems.