July 20th, 2024

Will war in Ukraine lead to an era of technological repression?


By Lethbridge Herald on December 2, 2023.

Editor:

Ukraine has now been fighting their own Third World War for nearly two years, but it is not just the tanks, guns and ammunition that are essential to their defence. Technology plays an absolutely crucial role as well. Specifically, Elon Musk’s Starlink (a division of his SpaceX), and Clearview AI have become indispensable.

Soon after Russia invaded and immediately targeted essential infrastructure, Musk deployed his Starlink satellite Internet service for free across the country to facilitate communication for both the military and civilians. 

Without it, Ukrainian forces wouldn’t be able to fight a cyberwar against Russia or counter their constant disinformation campaign. Without Starlink, the Ukrainian military would be unable to interconnect their essential equipment, and the government couldn’t communicate with its citizens to provide lifesaving incoming information.

Clearview AI has built an alarming facial recognition software program by scraping billions of images and corresponding names from the Internet. They then sell this data to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. Clearview has provided the Ukrainian military free access so they can identify captured (and dead) Russian soldiers to determine potential war criminals, human rights violators, and undercover agents.

While it’s admirable that Starlink and Clearview have provided their services to Ukraine at no charge, they both have benefitted from the arrangement. Musk’s Starlink is now an essential component of any modern war and Clearview’s database of people’s faces has grown from 2 billion to over 40 billion images, making it an even more powerful and enticing tool for mass surveillance.

However, the looming question is: what will be the price to Ukraine once the war is over?

After the war, most of Ukraine’s telecommunications infrastructure will have been destroyed. It will take years and billions of dollars to restore high-speed Internet service across the shattered country. The Starlink infrastructure, however, will still be positioned high above Ukraine. 

These satellites have become so essential to the nation, Elon Musk could probably ask any price he wishes for continued service.

Clearview AI has been called a fundamental building block of the digital future by Mikhayl Fedorov, the Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation. 

Does this mean that Ukrainians will live in a surveillance state as Clearview AI is embedded within their country’s popular digital identity application, Diia – all in the name of national defence and border security?

This illegal and unjustified war has killed and disabled hundreds of thousands of innocent Ukrainians. Families have been torn apart and most of the nation has been reduced to rubble.

 When the war is finally over, Ukraine will have paid a terrible price for their victory over Russia. Let’s hope this hard-fought victory does not result in a new era of technological oppression.

The Peace Coalition

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