The History of Face Recognition Technology at The Ağri High-Security Prison



In this text, Efe Levent mixes fiction and historical realities to describe the early implementation of face recognition in a high-security prison in eastern Anatolia. By attributing to Turkish scientists the invention of this apparatus, he intends to critique a particular type of heavily nationalist anti-colonial discourses that claim non-Western ownership of advanced technologies.

Levent Funambulist 5
Camera testing room where the latest imported cameras underwent quality control. From the promotional guide of the facility published in 2000.

For good or for ill, face recognition technology has become an ordinary part of our lives. Your phone camera can now recognize the faces of your friends, so you can tag them easily when sharing a photo of a birthday party. Law enforcement forces all over the world also use this technology to identify and track suspects through surveillance equipment. In China, it has become embedded in the social credit system, which assigns a score to each citizen based on their behavior and tracks their movements and activities by using face recognition. But although this technology has become a ubiquitous part of our lives, most of us still inaccurately believe it has been developed in the United States, when in fact many of the pioneering scientists behind it are in fact, from Turkey.