Police forces in China using smart glasses to track citizens in real time
March 14, 2018
Police forces in China are now using specially-crafted smart glasses to keep tabs on citizens and to scan number plates in a move to automate law enforcement and prevention of crime.
Earlier this month, local police forces in Chine were spotted wearing specially-designed smart glasses on the eve of the annual meeting of China’s parliament in central Beijing which led to the anointing of Xi Zinping as supreme-leader-for-life.
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According to Reuters, these smart glasses helped police forces scan facial features of millions of citizens and cross-check such scans with a centralised database which contained details of blacklisted individuals. As such, nabbing criminals or those who did really believe in the CCP's philosophy was made much easier.
“(China’s) leadership once felt a degree of trepidation over the advancement of the internet and communication technologies. It now sees them as absolutely indispensable tools of social and political control," said David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project to Reuters.
The introduction of the specialised smart glasses has confirmed the theory that China is quickly turning itself into a mass surveillance state, even though a lot of other countries use millions of CCTV cameras to track movements of citizens at all times.
What's more, the smart glasses can also scan licence numbers in real time, thereby verifying the whereabouts of a vehicle's owner or nabbing vehicle owners if their name appears on the blacklist. These smart glasses were also used to carry out surveillance on millions of revelers during Chinese New Year celebrations last month.
According to Reuters, a key concern is that "blacklists could include a wide range of people stretching from lawyers and artists to political dissidents, charity workers, journalists and rights activists".
"It is frightening that Chinese authorities are collecting and centralizing ever more information about hundreds of millions of ordinary people, identifying persons who deviate from what they determine to be 'normal thought,' and then surveilling them," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
While there's very little that Human Rights Watch can do about it, the introduction of smart glasses and other advanced surveillance devices in China could soon lead to the adoption of such devices by other despotic countries or states which face issues like civil riots, terrorism or violent crime.
"Devices that can perform face-recognition analysis, and work with numerous computer bases in real time, give the person wearing it tremendous power over people. In the foreseeable future, such policemen literally could become Robocops - see it all, know it all and, frankly speaking, arrest anybody who is mathematically proven to be a potential threat," warned Evgeny Chereshnev, CEO at Biolink.Tech.
"Such devices can be called “absolute privacy destruction weapons” and have to be treated as such. For some law enforcement tasks, such devices with real-time criminal record and biometry access could potentially be helpful. But there is no way those should be available to the mass market.
"Real-time identity scanners must become a heavily regulated business, similar to the weapons and ammunition industries in Europe or Singapore. Only officers on duty must have access to it with mandatory and law-enforced accountability and transparency tools in place.
"Otherwise we would start with fun high-tech glasses today, and wake up in “1984” tomorrow - a police state where your thoughts are analysed on the go and those who can afford freedom of speech or thought get killed or tortured for their desire of simply being different," he added.
Jay Jay is a freelance technology writer for teiss. He has previously written news articles, device reviews and features for Mobile Choice UK website and magazine, as well as writing extensively for SC Magazine UK, Tech Radar, Indian Express, and Android Headlines.