Contemporary conflicts and facial recognition

The ongoing war in Ukraine has risen a question about the possible role of facial recognition technologies in contemporary military conflicts

Contemporary conflicts and facial recognition

Russian invasion to Ukraine has once more revealed the versatile nature of the modern warfare and contemporary conflicts. Alongside with land, air and sea, cyberspace remains the area of fierce clashes between Russia and Ukraine. Internet, especially social networks are widely used for various types of information and psychological operations. Same time, the ongoing revolution in communication technologies makes almost impossible to hide the information. Accordingly, one of the main specific characteristics of the war is the fact that society is more informed about ongoing situation, than ever. This process cannot be discussed in a single dimension as far as it has its advantages and downsides. On the hand it is extremely difficult to hide the atrocities and war crimes that has been conducted on Ukrainian soil, it is much easier to gather evidence and get information directly from the victims, or eyewitnesses. On the other hand, the war has become into a reality show type entertainment for millions of spectators all over the world. As one of the Ukrainian politicians has already mentioned, the western society is looking at the war as if it was some show, however everything what is happening is happening for real, and everything what people see is about the indescribable human tragedy, as far as the war at first place affects those people, who are not concerned or linked to the politics, conflict and just desire to have normal, peaceful lives where their rights are protected and their lives, dignity and personality are not at risk of destruction and humiliation.

At this extend the question rises, what role a facial recognition technology, like PimEyes can play? As far as the more advanced the facial recognition gets, easier to find a person who has ever been connected to the internet. One of the main characteristics of the war in Ukraine is that fighters from both sides upload material to various internet sources where their faces and locations are visible. Same time, from both side enormous amount of photo and video material are generated where faces of war hostages are displayed, where they publicly admit war crimes, or ask for mercy. Faces if refugees, internally displaced persons, or civilian hostages permanently are displayed by various media sources, users, or even fighters themselves. In such cases, efficient facial recognition solutions might be really handful to search or identify those people who represent subject of particular interest.

At the beginning of Russian invasion to Ukraine, PimEyes received multiple requests from Russian based users about permission to use the facial recognition technology to search for their family members or Ukrainian soldiers who have been posting videos in different online sources. After analysis of the requests and traffic from Russian Federation, PimEyes team saw the risk that their product might be used for illegal purposes or might be used by special services of Russia to identify Ukrainian individuals who are actively involved in information operations, or just create content to encourage Ukrainian society to resist Russian occupation. To avoid using PimEyes services for such distorted purposes PimEyes team made up decision to bar Russian Federation from its services till the end of aggression. Every user who is based in Russia at this moment is unavailable to perform searches or use any other services offered by the company. Same time, PimEyes made a statement that they are ready to provide any possible assistance to investigation process of the war crimes, cooperate with international humanitarian organizations that work to find the missing people, identify war criminals, or military hostages who need to be returned to their country.