China launches controversial facial recognition program (video)

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Go to China, and, like walking into the “Cheers” bar, “everybody know your name” the moment they see your face, because that’s how people’s identities are now being verified in the Asian nation. Banks, airports, hotels, and even public toilets are using new advanced facial recognition technology, the Washington Post reports.

It might make some everyday tasks which would involve keys and passwords easier, but you have to wonder who else would be using this technology — especially in Communist China.

According to a report in The Washington Free Beacon, the technology is being used by police to track and analyze individuals’ behaviors, and the Chinese police say they use it to catch “bad guys”.

The aim is for the facial recognition data to merge with databases and create an “identity card”—containing criminal and medical records, travel bookings, online purchases, and social media comments—for every individual. The identity card would also include an image of the citizen’s face.

The Post described China’s plans for a pilot program as part of a larger scheme known as “Xue Liang,” which can be translated as “Sharp Eyes.”

The intent is to connect the security cameras that already scan roads, shopping malls and transport hubs with private cameras on compounds and buildings, and integrate them into one nationwide surveillance and data-sharing platform. It will use facial recognition and artificial intelligence to analyze and understand the mountain of incoming video evidence; to track suspects, spot suspicious behaviors and even predict crime; to coordinate the work of emergency services; and to monitor the comings and goings of the country’s 1.4 billion people, official documents and security industry reports show.

The Post also noted that the program’s ultimate goal is to track everything people do, see and think. Tech executives working on the project say they intend to “shine a light on every dark corner of China, to eliminate the shadows where crime thrives.”

The “Sharp Eyes” project title is taken from communist slogan “the masses have sharp eyes,” and stems from Mao Zedong’s attempt to have citizens spying on one another, according to the chilling report.

German academic Adrian Zenz said the Chinese government “craves omnipotence over a vast, complex, and restive population.” He added that they are using the latest in surveillance technologies to do just that.

The United States also uses facial recognition when it comes to crime scenes and the national database of mug shots, but China wants to take it from criminal investigations to more nefarious purposes; such as tracking social activists and dissidents. They want to monitor entire ethnic groups and seek to “dominate the global artificial-intelligence industry, to apply big data to tighten its grip on every aspect of society, and to maintain surveillance of its population more effectively than ever before,” according to the report.

China’s government aims to make the video surveillance network “omnipresent, fully networked, always working and fully controllable” by 2020, official documents show.

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