How Smart Are the New 'Smart Cameras' Israel Wants to Install Near the Temple Mount?

According to the police, who will be using the system, not very

The control center watching the CCTV footage in Jerusalem.
The control center watching the CCTV footage in Jerusalem. Emil Salman

Israel's security cabinet decided to remove the metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount that led to a wave of protests from Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as the Arab world. The cabinet's decision emphasized that the metal detectors would be replaced by technologically advanced security cameras.

But how smart is the high-tech network of cameras that are to be installed around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem within six months?

>> Muslim worshipers refuse to return to Temple Mount, even without metal detectors <<

Israeli security forces take down security barriers at the Lions' Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 24, 2017
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP

The cameras have been used in the past by the police. They have been tried out at the Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount using a system that was offered to the police by the former head of the army intelligence corps, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash. The retired army officer is president and co-founder of FST Biometrics, a biometric technology company.

The system requires a database of photos, which, in the case of the Temple Mount, could come from the Israel Police and the Shin Bet Security Service as well as from government ministries that have photographs of members of the population. Every photo in the database would receive a classification as to the degree of risk that the person poses. The system is capable of scanning millions of faces in a matter of seconds.

The system determines the person's identity based on at least twelve facial characteristics. Among its other capabilities, the system is able to scan the distance between the person's eyes, the circumference of the head and examine the person's ears and other characteristics to verify the identity of suspects, even if they cover their faces.

The cameras that are to be placed several meters in front of the police inspection point near the Temple Mount are to be under the control of the staff that monitors the network of closed-circuit cameras in Jerusalem's Old City. Every time an individual whose picture is in the database passes through, the system will indicate to the monitors that the person is approaching the Temple Mount compound and will send a message to those on site to conduct a search or questioning of the person, if necessary.

According to the police, they will serve more as a general deterrent than to prevent situations in which terrorists seek to carry out attacks. The police further say that while there are better systems out there, their benefit isn't worth the additional cost. They noted that these cameras are not intrusive and do not infringe on worshipers' privacy.

At this point it isn't clear whether the system that will actually be provided to the police is Farkash's but the police say that even if it isn't the exact same system it will be one similar to it.

An official in the police versed in the matter said that the pilot project in Mughrabi Gate showed that the system could not warn its officers in all cases that it should have warned.  The same official said that in effect, the system provides the police with the ability to detect persons who were suspected of a crime in the past or have been tagged as a threat, but in cases in which the person has no history the system provides no recourse. It is believed that the system will deter those who already know they were tagged by Israeli security forces, but will be less effective with lone-wolf attackers.