Chinese Police

China's ultra-high-tech police surveillance arsenal

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China has resolutely embraced new technologies. We often talk about it in our columns. It wants to establish itself as a world leader, dethroning Americans and Europeans alike. But these very advanced technologies are not only intended to improve the lives of its citizens and the competitiveness of its companies. The use of the most sophisticated high-tech is also in the hands of the police, who now have surveillance resources that were previously thought to be reserved for science fiction films.
 
Ubig data, facial recognition and predictive algorithms no longer hold any secrets for the Chinese police, who now use them on a daily basis to monitor their population. Even conducting preventive police operations in certain sensitive regions.
 

Predictive Policing

The alert was issued on February 27 by Human Rights Watch (HRW). It said the Chinese authorities are using an algorithm to make preventive arrests in the troubled Xinjiang region in the far west of the country.
 
A computer system can thus analyze global individual data obtained from images shot by CCTV cameras, identity card or license plate checks carried out at the very numerous security checkpoints in Xinjiang, bank movements, health data, WiFi telephone or computer connections, or legal files.
 
For the first time, we are able to demonstrate that the Chinese government's use of big data and predictive policing methods is not only a gross violation of the right to privacy, but also allows arbitrary detention. "Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based HRW researcher, told Reuters agency Maya Wang. « The people of Xinjiang cannot resist or challenge this increasingly intrusive surveillance of their daily lives because most of them do not even know about the existence of this 'black box' programme or how it works.. »
 
The technology was developed by a subsidiary of the group. China Electronics Technology and was the subject of a collaboration contract with the Xinjiang Regional Government in 2016. The fight against extremism takes the form of compilations and studies of mega-data related to individual citizen behaviour and the reporting of any unusual activity. According to the HRW report, this exploitation of big data, often without the knowledge of the persons under surveillance, has already led to arrests and placements in extra-judicial political rehabilitation centres.
 
Similar "predictive security" projects are under way in other parts of China, Maya Wang added, but surveillance is more extensive in Xinjiang, which has been plagued by violence for years against the backdrop of ethnic conflict between the Muslim Uighur community and the Hans, the majority ethnic group in China.
 

Glasses to recognize an individual in 1/10° of a second

At the end of last year, strange sunglasses appeared in the arsenal of Chinese policemen. According to the Wall Street JournalPolice officers in Zhengzhou, China, were spotted wearing sunglasses equipped with facial recognition software that allows them to identify individuals in a crowd in 1/10th of a second. China's instant messaging platform QQ last week published a series of photos of the glasses in action.
 
This new technology, developed by the group LLVisions surveillance efforts to an unprecedented level. The reports in the official daily People's Daily seem to indicate that this technology greatly enhances police work. Not only do surveillance goggles actually work, they also work better - and faster - than traditional video surveillance installations. Security footage is notoriously grainy, and even if the cameras are monitored in real time, the delay between the sighting of a person who might be a person of interest and the call to authorities can be long enough for that person to escape quickly. The sunglasses are connected to a hand-held device that uses facial recognition software to compare the people the wearer sees with a pre-loaded database containing photos of 10,000 suspects. And it does it in a tenth of a second.
 
With artificial intelligence eyewear, you get instant and accurate feedback. "said Wu Fei, Managing Director of LLVision, to The Wall Street Journal. « You can decide right now what the next interaction will be. "The engineer adds, however, that the accuracy is not perfect. Environmental "noise" in a congested terminal, for example, could skew the results.
 
This defect is not the least of the dangers of this type of police tool. Indeed, many voices have been raised to point out that these devices could lend themselves to racial profiling and, more broadly still, that they could infringe on the privacy of citizens. William Nee, a Chinese researcher at Amnesty International, told the Wall Street Journal: "The Wall Street Journal has been told that the use of racial profiling devices is not only a threat to the privacy of the public, but also a threat to the security of the public," he said. The availability of sunglasses with facial recognition technology to police officers could make Chinese surveillance even more ubiquitous. ".
 
It is currently the Lunar New Year period in China, a time when the country's many airports, train stations and public transportation centers are crowded with travelers. It's also a time when risks are at their peak. Chinese state media have reported that police wearing facial recognition glasses at Zhengzhou East Station have already made numerous arrests. This is just the beginning.
 
The Chinese police have resolutely entered the world of Minority Report and Big Brother...that of ubiquitous surveillance. Will it be emulated by other police forces around the world? There's no doubt about it. 
 

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