According to reports from local media, China’s police have been using new surveillance tools which include sunglasses with built-in facial recognition for over a month, to catch suspects and those traveling under false identities.
According to a Reuters article, now China is expanding the facial recognition sunglasses program as police are beginning to use them in the outskirts of Beijing.
The sunglasses are the latest component in China’s burgeoning tech-surveillance state. In recent years, the country has poured resources into various advanced tracking technologies, developing artificial intelligence to identify individuals and digitally tail them around cities. One estimate suggests the country will have more than 600 million CCTV cameras by 2020, with Chinese tech startups outfitting them with advanced features like gait recognition.
Police used the sunglasses to check travellers and car registration plates against the government’s blacklist before Parliament’s annual meeting this past weekend. The Chinese government has a list of people who are not allowed to enter the meeting and might face additional enforcement action. The blacklist includes criminals, journalists, political dissidents, and human rights activists, among others.
The sunglasses are controlled by a connected mobile unit and sell for 3,999 yuan, or $636 (though the facial recognition support costs extra). Beijing-based LLVision Technology’s CEO Wu Fei told the Wall Street Journal that they’re able to recognize individuals from a pre-loaded database of 10,000 suspects in just 100 milliseconds, but cautions that accuracy levels in real-life usage may vary due “environmental noise.”
Obviously, there are privacy concerns regarding this technology and not everyone believes police should be using it. Amnesty International’s William Nee told the Wall Street Journal, “The potential to give individual police officers facial recognition technology in sunglasses could eventually make China’s surveillance state all the more ubiquitous.”