Computer Vision and Facial Recognition Technology

During the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, protesters were seen to be using laser pens to disrupt and damage facial recognition cameras at the Chinese government liaison office.

This feature of the pro-democracy demonstrations drew China’s culture of surveillance back into sharp focus. It is common knowledge that China profiles and surveils Uighur muslims in the Xinjiang region and uses big data and AI under the guises of necessary “security” and “stability”, without unified privacy or data protection laws. An estimated 170 million CCTV cameras are operational across the country with an additional 400 million due to be installed in the next three years. Initial testing of glasses utilising built-in facial recognition technology has also been conducted in populous cities like Zhengzhou, allowing wanted criminals to be identified by the AI in ~100 milliseconds.
That said, China isn’t the only cause for concern and while it is easy for national governments to condemn this sort of behaviour on the world stage, the UK is in the trial phases of using facial recognition technology (and doesn’t have policies in place to govern its usage) and in the USA, roughly half of American adults are in a law enforcement face recognition network according to a Georgetown Law report from 2016.

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