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Government China Privacy

Will Facial Recognition in China Lead To Total Surveillance? (washingtonpost.com) 122

schwit1 shares a new Washington Post article about China's police and security state -- including the facial recognition cameras allow access to apartment buildings. "If I am carrying shopping bags in both hands, I just have to look ahead and the door swings open," one 40-year-old woman tells the Post. "And my 5-year-old daughter can just look up at the camera and get in. It's good for kids because they often lose their keys." But for the police, the cameras that replaced the residents' old entry cards serve quite a different purpose. Now they can see who's coming and going, and by combining artificial intelligence with a huge national bank of photos, the system in this pilot project should enable police to identify what one police report, shared with The Washington Post, called the "bad guys" who once might have slipped by... Banks, airports, hotels and even public toilets are all trying to verify people's identities by analyzing their faces. But the police and security state have been the most enthusiastic about embracing this new technology.

The pilot in Chongqing forms one tiny part of an ambitious plan, 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... At the back end, these efforts merge with a vast database of information on every citizen, a "Police Cloud" that aims to scoop up such data as criminal and medical records, travel bookings, online purchase and even social media comments -- and link it to everyone's identity card and face.

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Will Facial Recognition in China Lead To Total Surveillance?

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  • "Lead To" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @12:47PM (#55922171)

    You people apparently have not been paying any attention to what China has been doing for decades now. Automated facial scanning is but one tiny piece in a massive machine that has existed for quite a long time now.

    • well. everything is made in china so...get a clue.
    • You people apparently have not been paying any attention to what China has been doing for decades now. Automated facial scanning is but one tiny piece in a massive machine that has existed for quite a long time now.

      Good point. Everything is novel to the naive.

      "Oh no, maybe it will cause them to become a communist dictatorship!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 )
      Considering FaceBook's facial recognition, geotag determinations, friends association and sharing everything with US Government entities - anyone who thinks the US is not already a surveillance state is woefully and purposefully ignorant.
      It also likely that China has this information as well via hacking into substandard US security systems with "non-strong" encryption edicts. So, yes, China is already a surveillance state on the US, why not their own people?
      • Facebook has well over a billion users - if you’re going to claim “Facebook” = “surveillance state”, you’re going to need to rope in a few more western nations.

      • Considering FaceBook's facial recognition, geotag determinations, friends association and sharing everything with US Government entities - anyone who thinks the US is not already a surveillance state

        I'm not sure I'd disagree with calling the U.S. a surveillance state...

        However a lot of what you just listed is optional. People don't have to share anything on Facebook. People do not have to take photos with geotagging enabled - they just do. And the U.S. along with various companies happily ingest that free

    • Decades ? China has a history of maintaining a well organized and efficient state for centuries.
      • I wouldn't say it was until communism took hold that they really got into monitoring the populace to the level they are now.

        To me it has nothing to do with them being well-organized and efficient (which as you say they were for a long time).

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Not just China, the UK does it too. The UK tries to hide it, painting the cameras grey and using indirect lighting. In China they paint the cameras yellow and use a flash bulb (!) to photograph the drivers' faces on roads.

  • by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @12:48PM (#55922175) Homepage Journal
    Once all automobiles are mandated to be robot-driven, so we can restrict your travel entirely to where you can walk, the imprisonment will be complete.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They already restricted freedoms for everybody living legally in the country. This is just a reminder to those of us in currently freer countries that you need to GTFO now, because while there may be cracks you can slip through now, the next generation of cracks you might not be smart enough to find and scurry through.

      The UK, then US and then EU will be next in following these Ambitious plans. I am sure Russia would love to as well, but I just don't seen them having/putting the finances necessary in place t

    • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @01:13PM (#55922327) Journal
      I see that, and you see that, and we both get lumped in with the tinfoil-hat crowd, told we're dangerously paranoid, told "that'll never happen" by the shills and the deniers, told "SDCs will save lives" (i.e. trading security and 'safety' for freedom, yet again), told "humans aren't capable of driving a car so we need machines to do it for us" (which is a flat-out lie), and so on. Meanwhile the technology is half-baked at best, the security of the software running them will be half-assed and full of holes, and as you allude to, SDCs will not only be capble of being tracked in realtime via an always-on radio link, but will be capable of being taken control of remotely at any time, with no manual override possible by the occupant. This will be even more true for Level 5 SDCs, which won't have any controls for a human driver (and fuck that, I *would* rather walk than step into one of those four-wheeled nightmare machines) so you'll literally have ZERO control over the machine, it'll do whatever it wants to do (or whatever who is actually in control wants it to do) and you'll have ZERO say over any of it. Needless to say (at least for anyone who can actually think these things through) any decent hacker will be able to hack these vehicles and take control just as if they were the police or the government; do I really need to ennumerate all the things criminal hackers could do to you with this ability?

      Know what really disturbs me the most? How some people envision being able to put their kids in some Level 5 SDC (no controls at all) by themselves and send them off to Grandma's house or wherever. *SHUDDER* So far as I'm concerned you may as well just put a gun to their little heads and pull the trigger, it'd be a faster and less painful way to go.

      I'd rather walk. Or perhaps I'll go back to riding a motorcycle full-time, like I used to when I was in my 20's. No way in hell I'll ever have a SDC or even ride in one. Me driving or human driver or nothing, thanks anyway.
      • It's probably only 20 years until non-SDC are illegal. "For safety of course". And motorcycles will also be illegal.

        • Still won't have one, even if that turns out to be true. Also speculation, bullshit, and spreading FUD. Go troll elsewhere, you're boring me.
      • "fuck that, I *would* rather walk than step into one of those four-wheeled nightmare machines) so you'll literally have ZERO control over the machine"

        Have you ever ridden a bus or flown? What sort of control did you have there?

        • Old, tired-out arguments don't interest me. Not the same thing, not relevant.
        • Busses and planes are operated by people who generally don't want to die in an accident. An autonomous car with maliciously altered software doesn't have to harm the perpetrator. THAT's the difference. A bus, train, or plane operator is essentially a hostage to proper operation of the vehicle, because their life is at stake if they fail too badly.
      • by gnick ( 1211984 )

        Know what really disturbs me the most? How some people envision being able to put their kids in some Level 5 SDC (no controls at all) by themselves and send them off to Grandma's house or wherever. *SHUDDER*

        Can you imagine putting 20 or 30 of them all inside a bus a just sending it off to school? All it takes is one bug in that bus driver's software... Think of the children!

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        I see that, and you see that, and we both get lumped in with the tinfoil-hat crowd, told we're dangerously paranoid, told "that'll never happen" by the shills and the deniers, told "SDCs will save lives" (i.e. trading security and 'safety' for freedom, yet again), told "humans aren't capable of driving a car so we need machines to do it for us" (which is a flat-out lie), and so on.

        The Harrison Narcotics Act will never be used to ban drugs. The income tax will never be greater than 10%.

    • Almost. Once we have self driving cars using underground tunnels they can fence in each neighbourhood with concrete walls and limit undesirables to a single block of houses. Look how far Terry Fox got, do you want to risk those on the "No Drive" list getting into YOUR neighbourhood?
  • The short answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kargan ( 250092 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @12:51PM (#55922191) Homepage

    Yes.

  • Why just China? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @01:04PM (#55922265) Homepage

    Worldwide!

  • by Big Bipper ( 1120937 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @01:15PM (#55922337)
    Maybe the Islamic Women who wear Burkas ( full face covering ) are actually ahead of the times. Maybe we'll all be wearing them in the future to preserve our privacy.
  • In all that time, how many revolutions have there been in China? Not much of a student of history but I know it's happened more than once.
    What I'm wondering is this: When you have over a billion people in your country, and you treat them the way that the Communist Chinise government treats them, how much more of this bullshit will they stand for before there's another revolution? Or, at least, before the Communist government sees that the only way for them to stay in power and prevent a long, drawn-out, bl
    • by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @01:35PM (#55922435) Journal

      The whole point of a book like "1984" is to explore what happens to society when Government has this level of surveillance and control. When you can't curse the "great leader" in your home without someone or something hearing you and reporting you; when you can't discuss government with your neighbors without your words being reported; when you can't gather with like-minded people to discuss ways to change the government (either within the rules, or outside them) without being arrested as a danger; when the government can identify every person in a demonstration, the age-old remedy of revolution becomes unimaginable, and society freezes into rigid authoritarianism with no viable hope to break free.

      And if you believe that China is the only government teetering on the edge of this chasm, you haven't been paying attention.

      • It doesn't become "unimagineable", it just becomes more bloody and violent. There will always be revolutionaries, and they'll always find a way. China is a big country, and out in the wilds where there's no cameras or microphones and everybody knows everybody, whole armies can be quietly formed, checking the loyalty of their own people, and dealing with any spies that are detected. Look at various groups in the middle east; how do you imagine they got started? The old saying about how the tighter you grip s
      • Oh and by the way if you're one of those cowardly types who go around saying "there's nothing we can do so we should just do as we're told" then you and I have nothing more to say to each other.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        In America you only get in trouble if surveillance catches you PRAISING the great leader. Then you are literally a white supremacist and need to be black listed.

      • The whole point of a book like "1984" is to explore what happens to society when Government has this level of surveillance and control. When you can't curse the "great leader" in your home without someone or something hearing you and reporting you; when you can't discuss government with your neighbors without your words being reported; when you can't gather with like-minded people to discuss ways to change the government (either within the rules, or outside them) without being arrested as a danger; when the government can identify every person in a demonstration, the age-old remedy of revolution becomes unimaginable, and society freezes into rigid authoritarianism with no viable hope to break free.

        North Korea shows decisively that you don't even need high-tech to freeze society into this state - just good-old snitching, torture and massive amounts of fear will do the trick.

    • by Ken McE ( 599217 )

      When you have over a billion people in your country, and you treat them the way that the Communist Chinise government treats them, how much more of this bullshit will they stand for before there's another revolution?

      By Chinese standards, they are being treated very well and have no need for revolution. The economy is booming, employment is high, wealth is diffusing widely throughout the country, and China's prominence as a world player is improving every day.

      I don't know about life expectancy and childhoo

    • I was told in a Chinese history class that the big revolutions happen about every 200 years, like clockwork. Since the last one was in the 1950s, look for the next one in the 2150s.
  • gets tired of the BS China changes.
  • Many total surveillance schemes have failed because even a low false positive rate can overwhelm the system. How will this program handle false positives?

    • by davecb ( 6526 )
      Probably by frustrating the police like crazy on one hand (when looking for a particular person) but on the other hand making it easy for them to lay false charges (when they have a person they want to blame already).
    • It's in China. They'll handle false positives by executing all the matching faces. After all, 100 innocents dying to get rid of one counter-revolutionary is a cheap price to pay. They have plenty of people.

      Unless it's a high muckity muck or their kid. Then they are obviously innocent (unless a higher muckity muck decides against it) and are free to go. Of course the other matches will get shot.

    • They will use the same solution as the NSA. Spy on everyone all the time, feed it into computers set to look for common patterns, and hope it works. They had ALL the bits of the 9/11 attacks and didn't know it until after the fact.
      • Or they knew it, and didn't care. 9/11 was a boon for big government, the surveillance state, and militarism in general. There were plenty of people who had an interest in allowing it to happen.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      False positives happened in the past due to systems that needed a face presented in a direct face on way with a good standard of lighting from a set of CCTV images.
      That saved on needing to hire many new skilled programmers, have advanced new CCTV network that could work in low light and allowed for a low cost system that could use a lot of consumer CPU's.

      Images of people been interviewed, criminals taken at police stations, jail, prison in the past did not get much mathematical consideration as the image
  • I'm not convinced this is the case. Xue != Sharp and Liang != Eye.

    It's more likely it's this XueLiang meaning 'bright as snow'

    https://translate.google.com/?... [google.com]

    Then again that can mean 'sharp (of eye)' or discerning.

    https://www.linguee.com/chines... [linguee.com]

    Interestingly the associations with snow and discerning sight in Mandarin are the opposite to the way they are in English.

    Compare for example 'Snowblind' by Black Sabbath (or the System of a Down cover).

  • Seriously, it's being rolled out all over the USA and idiots are cheering, because terrorists!

    I can't count the number of times I've seen articles about airports with facial recognition (usually with an accuracy rate that means the likelihood of a terrorist slipping through or grandma being harassed and arrested are shockingly high), or crime cameras being abused by police (to track an ex-girlfriend or other stalker-type behavior), linking stop-light cameras with the FBI databases, etc.

    FYI: 1984 seems to be

  • I'm impressed Philip K Dick knew the question then.
  • Banks, airports, hotels and even public toilets are all trying to verify people's identities by analyzing their faces.

    For a second there I thought it said feces (faeces).

  • LUCIUS

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