China promised and built “the world’s biggest camera surveillance network.”
As of Dec 2017, 170 million CCTV (closed-circuit television, also known as video surveillance) cameras across China are already in place and an estimated 400 million new ones will be installed in the next three years. Many of the cameras are fitted with AI (artificial intelligence), including facial recognition technology.
But the Big Bro’s line of sight is about to get a new angle thanks to new smart eyewear that is being piloted by police officers. The eyewear looks a lot like Google Glass, but they are used for identifying potential suspects.
According to Bloomberg, China’s state surveillance apparatus is trying out a new tool in one of its favorite test beds, the restive region of Xinjiang. The Muslim-dominated villages on China’s western frontier are testing facial-recognition systems that alert authorities when targeted people venture more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) beyond designated “safe areas.” The areas comprise individuals’ homes and workplaces. “A system like this is obviously well-suited to controlling people,” said Jim Harper, executive vice president of the libertarian-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute and a founding member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. “Papers, please” was the symbol of living under tyranny in the past. Now, government officials don’t need to ask.
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“Xue Liang” (“Sharp Eyes”) – a reference to a Chinese idiom about the public’s collective observation power and a facial recognition program which is a big part of China’s two-year-old domestic surveillance upgrade campaign. While other countries are still “playing” with the technology – the Federal Bureau of Investigation is, for instance, yet developing a database of Americans’ photographs – China is at the vanguard.
“In China, you can use your face to get into your office, get on a train, or get a loan” according to Yiting Sun. Other examples: employees at e-commerce giant Alibaba in Shenzhen can show their faces to enter their office building instead of swiping ID cards; a train station in western Beijing matches passengers’ tickets to their government-issued IDs by scanning their faces. If their face matches their ID card photo, the system deems their tickets valid and the station gate will open. The subway system in Hangzhou employs surveillance cameras capable of recognizing faces to spot suspected criminals. Samsung Galaxy and Apple latest phones support face recognition. Nearly 90 percent of China’s roughly 200 top Internet companies already use Face ID.
So how the Face ID technology is popular in the world?
Face++, the world’s largest face-recognition technology platform which can recognize over a 100 points on a person’s face, currently used by more than 300,000 developers in 150 countries to identify faces, as well as images, text, and various kinds of government-issued IDs, pioneering new uses of face recognition technology, from fraud investigation to “smile to pay.”
To show the power of this AI technology and test it, the BBC’s John Sudworth has been given rare access to one of the new hi-tech police control rooms. Finding John took 7 minutes.
Remember the American drama series “Person of interest“ that aired on CBS from September 2011 to June 2016? Right after the premiere, the show was labeled a science fiction genre. A mysterious reclusive billionaire computer programmer developed a supercomputer system (“The Machine”) for the US federal government that is capable of collating all sources of information to predict and identify people planning terrorist acts. The Machine has developed into a sentient superintelligent artificial intelligence, leaving the creator wrestling with questions of human control and other moral and ethical issues resulting from the situation.
Just in seven years after the show, the future is here.
Welcome to the new world of AI, Face ID and absence of privacy.
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