Data Science and Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Security & Surveillance in China

Futuristic Governance or Dystopian Nightmare?

China is making huge investments – over $ 30 billion – in artificial intelligence security and surveillance technology to discipline its citizens. The country will have around 300 million cameras monitoring its citizens by 2020 and is already beginning to demonstrate the “effectiveness” of these systems in rounding up criminals and reducing the amount of crimes in different regions.

In Zhenghou, artificial intelligence security and surveillance was useful in identifying a heroin smuggler at the railway station. In another city – Qingdao – the technology was useful in identifying over 20 suspects at a beer festival. And, in Wufu, a man suspected of committing murder was spotted while he was shopping for food in the streets.

With just cameras and codes, China is plotting a grand plan to keep track of its 1.4 billion people. The country’s technology industry is not shying away from this challenge.

Artificial Intelligence Security Systems Galore

China is using artificial intelligence security systems everywhere – from train stations to hotels, and even in the streets! Facial recognition technologies help protect housing societies. Other technologies keep an eye on the internet and digital communications. Anyone, who takes the norms of the government lightly, runs the risk of humiliation. Their names and faces are put on public displays to shame them.

The Chinese government is doing its best to promote its artificial intelligence security initiatives. In “Amazing China” – the state’s propaganda film – the narrator lists the benefits of China’s policing policies. With artificial intelligence, the government’s approach is more predictive the film proclaims. Artificial intelligence security systems allow the Chinese government to foresee threats and bring wrongdoers to justice no matter where they decide to run or hide for cover.

chinese-surveillance-cartoon

Reliance on Uncertainty of Surveillance

Despite the government’s proclamations, however, artificial intelligence security systems in China are still in its nascent stages. The technology is in all sorts of public places, but not in a comprehensive and consistent manner. While a camera may be installed in train station, the road leading up to this public location might not have any monitors.

Besides, according to one tech executive there are around 20-30 million people on the government’s list of suspects. It is difficult to keep a close watch on so many people. Plus, there is the challenge of digitizing public records from a variety of databases and making them available to security officials in real-time.

China’s artificial intelligence security systems lack these capabilities and are far-from being the Orwellian all-seeing surveillance network. Given these limitations, it seems logical that China is publicizing the success of its artificial intelligence security system. The fear it harbors causes people to be more mindful of their behavior even when they are not within view of the government.

Progressive Intrusion

It is scary to imagine be under scrutiny all the time. It obviously is an infringement on citizens’ freedom. But, what if technology can help reduce crime and create a secure environment? Would it be a worthy investment? These are questions citizens across the world need to think about.

China is leading the way to technocratic governance. There is no guarantee that other governments will not follow suit. If China can prove to the world that they have a solution. Artificial intelligence security systems may become the norm soon.

So far, China is claiming artificial intelligence security and surveillance is proving to be useful. It has helped reduce jaywalking at busy intersections and helped catch over 1,000 across 20 or more airports and railway stations.

Government is funding more research in artificial intelligence security equipment. Even startups that support this governmental mission are growing quickly. Companies like Yitu, Sense Time and Megvii have raised hundreds of millions in recent months.

China will adopt more artificial intelligence security and surveillance. Whether this is a truly intelligent way forward or a tyrannical solution is unclear at the moment.

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Rohan Kumar

First-gen Rohantosh. Admirer and critic of all things tech.

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