Major tech firms have been pressured to develop strong policies regarding facial recognition. Microsoft has helped lead the way on that front, promising to put in place stricter policies, calling for greater regulation and asking fellow companies to follow suit.
Google SVP Kent Walker affirmed the company’s commitment not to sell facial recognition APIs. The executive cites concerns over how the technology could be abused.
Microsoft President Brad Smith called for governments to pay close attention at how facial detection technology is being implemented across the globe. The executive is calling out fellow technology purveyors to help address myriad issues around the technology before it becomes too pervasive.
Across the world, this technology is being used right now as ways to control their populations and China is investing billions of dollars to upgrade.
Chinese internet giant Tencent began trialling a facial recognition age-check system to limit the amount of time kids spend playing its Honor of Kings online game. As a result of the Chinese government’s growing restrictions on video games, Tencent is verifying players’ ages by matching their faces to government records. The time allotted to children is based on their ages. The government has cited over-gaming – especially Honor of Kings, which grossed almost USD 2 billion last year – as causing widespread myopia, lack of focus in school, and even a national security risk by distracting its soldiers!
New report has described how a catastrophic failure on the part of the Central Intelligence Agency, combined with the Chinese government’s steadily more sophisticated internet monitoring capabilities, led to the dramatic collapse of an American intelligence network in China and the executions of dozens of spies and their associates. The incident is just one example of how authorities in Beijing are overseeing the creation of an ever more effective police state, complete with technology and tactics straight out of a certain genre of near-future science fiction movie.
It is considered as one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically broke up the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.
Foreign Policy revealed how Chinese state security officials were able to completely demolish a CIA-run intelligence operation over the course of two years, beginning in 2010. The New York Times first broke the news of the debacle in 2017, but its sources either did not disclose or did not know exactly what had happened or the true scale of China’s response. In May 2018, U.S. officials charged former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee with conspiracy to commit espionage over the affair, nearly five months after indicting him for retaining classified information.
The CIA turned to the FBI to help uncover the source of the leak, according to the report. That investigation helped turn up Lee, who allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars to deliver information to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, which oversees both foreign and internal intelligence operations.
Xinjiang, where Uighurs, a non-Chinese Turkic ethnic group that is predominantly Muslim, make up the bulk of the population, has been an ideal setting to test out new equipment and concepts of operation far from both Han Chinese and outside observers.
To help exercise social control, China has put into place one of the most elaborate surveillance architectures in the world, complete with omnipresent cameras connected to monitoring stations running advanced facial recognition software, checkpoints with paramilitary police, and a system of systems all tied to a government-issued identification card that includes a “score” of how much a threat an individual poses to the state. Authorities have also begun implementing mass biometric data collection, including blood and DNA samples, to go along with other official information on file. All this can limit a person’s ability to buy goods and services or get a job.
After a spate of knife attacks in Xinjiang by alleged separatists, Chinese officials instituted a policy where cutlery vendors must physically laser-etch a QR code linked the buyer’s ID into the blade.
In July 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that some 11,500 Uighurs that the Chinese government had approved to go on the Hajj, the sacred Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, had to carry special cards with a GPS tracker inside on a lanyard around their necks. Ostensibly for their own safety in the event of some sort of crisis, this system would obviously be able to monitor their every movement and it seems likely that anyone who decided to leave it behind would, if nothing else, take a serious hit on their social scorecard.
Recently added in Xinjiang itself are small drones shaped like birds with realistically flapping wings, according to a June 2018 report from the South China Morning Post. These “Doves” can fly for thirty minutes and carry a small, color video camera and an ability to transmit the feed down to an individual on the ground. It reportedly has a GPS antenna and could be able to fly a pre-programmed route or operate under line-of-sight control.
The Chinese are “applying a very, very broad attempted solution to what they see as an ideological danger,” James Millward, who teaches Chinese history at The Georgetown University, told The Atlantic earlier in August 2018. “In Xinjiang, the definition of extremism has expanded so far as to incorporate.
The American Civil Liberties Union wants Amazon to stop offering their new facial recognition system” to governments and law enforcement.
The service, called “Rekognition,” uses artificial intelligence to identify, track and analyze faces in real time. According to Amazon, the service can “analyze billions of images and videos daily, and requires no machine learning expertise to use.”
The ACLU said in a blog post about the program: “People should be free to walk down the street without being watched by the government. By automating mass surveillance, facial recognition systems like Rekognition threaten this freedom, posing a particular threat to communities already unjustly targeted in the current political climate. Once powerful surveillance systems like these are built and deployed, the harm will be extremely difficult to undo.”
Rekognition was released in late 2016, with the sheriff’s office in Washington County, Oregon, as its first customers, according to the Associated Press. The department uses the service about 20 times per day.
Deputy Jeff Talbot, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the AP. “We want our local community to be aware of what we’re doing, how we’re using it to solve crimes – what it is and, just as importantly, what it is not.”
The Orlando Police Department began a pilot program last year with the Rekognition technology in what police chief John Mina called a “first-of-its-kind public-private partnership.”
In a presentation from a developer conference in Seoul, South Korea, Amazon’s Ranju Das said, “It’s about recognizing people, it’s about tracking people, and then it’s about doing this in real time, so that the law enforcement officers … can be then alerted in real time to events that are happening.”
In an email to the AP, the Orlando Police Department said they are “not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time.”
“The purpose of a pilot program such as this, is to address any concerns that arise as the new technology is tested,” the statement said. “Any use of the system will be in accordance with current and applicable law. We are always looking for new solutions to further our ability to keep the residents and visitors of Orlando safe.
Some Police Officers in China will receive China, glasses equipped with facial-scanning technology.
The glasses, issued to officers at a highly populated train station in the Henan province, are part of a security push leading up to Chinese New Year. So far, according to the state-media report, seven wanted criminals have been caught with the glasses, as well as 26 people using fake IDs.
LLVision Technology, the company behind the tech, told the Wall Street Journal that the glasses can recognize 100,000 different faces, and can identify a person in 100 milliseconds.