Late last month, Government announced that it has placed over 100 smart cameras around the city as part of a long-term battle to arrest crime.
The Chinese-built system all had the capabilities of facial and car licence recognition.
However, there are questions now whether Guyana would have exported without realising the implications data of citizens.
With regards to the security project, according to the administration, the noose would be tightening on crime as the cameras were strategically placed across the city.
The Safe City System is a component of the US$32M National Broadband Project, which was funded by China.
Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, and Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes, along with other high-ranking officials were given a preview of how the safe city system works.
The headquarters is the New National Database Centre, Liliendaal.
Minister Ramjattan said the system is crucial. He highlighted that statistics shows that 53 percent of serious crimes occurs in the city hence the decision to launch the pilot project in Georgetown.
“This is going to be one of the best developments for our country in relation to matters of security and the capacity and capabilities built in to ensure that we can track vehicles, track suspects to the extent of knowing where they are… thorough this technology, I am just so thrilled,” the minister underscored in a government statement.
The system is being built by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
Government said that the high-tech system can perform face and [car] licence recognition. Several police vehicles are also equipped with cameras and radios that can be traced and accessed at any time. From the security control room, the operators have access to all the cameras across the city that they can pull up on a big screen as they keep watch.
The company at the center of the project is Huawei.
That Chinese company, one of the biggest phone makers in the world, is under investigation by the US, with Canada detaining a senior executive for alleged wrongdoings.
There have been numerous articles accusing Huawei of using its software to allow Chinese Government access.
A recent Wall Street Journal investigation said that technicians of the Chinese phone company helped African government spy on political opponents.
However, in Guyana, the government and the previous administration, appear to be comfortable with Huawei despite the reports.
Yesterday, Robin Singh, a social commentator who is also President of the Guyana Baseball League Inc. questioned whether the smart city project would see data being handed over to the Chinese company.
Singh has significant experience in technology.
He said that in 2003, he was asked to look at the possibilities of using computing to improve sports performance.
“At the time, I was the owner of a successful technology startup in Trinidad and a part-time football coach. After some research I opted to introduce a computer-based system that paired data with video for comprehensive analysis.
“At one point, I was collecting video and correlating data on every first-class cricketer in the West Indies, then local club players in Trinidad, and further international players from around the world.”
In 2005, while employed by the West Indies Cricket Board, Singh said he was asked to turn over his database to West Indies Head Coach, Bennett King.
“I expressed misgiving about such vital material being handed over, given that Mr. King was Australian. This led to a row, which saw me leaving the employ of the WICB after my blunt refusal to hand over the entire database.
“I was only willing to hand over material of players under direct supervision of the head coach. I saw the handing over of player’s information as a betrayal of the trust they placed in me by allowing themselves to be recorded.”
Singh explained it was against this background that his concerns rose after hearing about database being compiled by the Huawei Smart City System in Guyana.
“You may ask that since there are been security cameras in Guyana for some time now, why the worry over the addition of a few more?
The Smart City system is not simply cameras; it is facial recognition; people and vehicle tracking; it is the gathering and use of data to identify our habits; our associates; Data is any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural (living) person, including names, dates of birth, photographs, video footage, email addresses and telephone numbers.
Other information such as IP addresses and communications content-related to or provided by end-users of communications services – are also considered personal data,” Singh disclosed.
He pointed out that Cambridge Analytica boasted of using 5,000 data points to create a profile of an individual that could be used to influence them to buy products or vote for a particular political party for example.
Cambridge Analytica Ltd is a British political consulting firm, which combined data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication during the electoral processes.
“Huawei built our national network and is engaged in managing the Smart City system whose scope is not public knowledge. The Huawei Artificial Intelligence software ‘Deep Learning’ cannot be run on a laptop or small server bank…It requires serious computing power, the likes of which is not available in Guyana.”
Singh said that as far as he is aware, Guyanese have not consented for their data to be used in creation of a database.
“…Nor have we consented to our data being exported to another country. We have certainly not consented to being spied upon by our own government much less a foreign power. There is a real possibility that the Smart City System (SCS) can be used to pry into every aspect of our lives in Guyana.
“For example, the cluster of cameras in front of PPP headquarters is a clear indicator of possible political usage.”
The commentator stressed that the Granger administration has not provided any information on the SCS so far, leaving many to believe it is limited to crime and traffic control.
However, he said, “The Head of the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) Floyd Levi, has made it clear that “the command centre will enhance the capacities and capabilities of security agencies”.
Levi also made it known that “it is our network corporation centre to members of the security sector so that they can commence operations here immediately” but the MDMA would not relinquish the facility.
“Clearly more is at play here than the citizens are being told. The Government of Guyana needs to make the SCS contract and all of its provisions public. Citizens of Guyana do not enjoy data protection laws as in the EU and 100 other countries as yet.
“Maybe if we saw who was in control of our data and how it was being managed, we would demand new laws be enacted for protection of our privacy and data.”
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