School kids in China are being surveilled by facial recognition software to determine whether they are paying attention in class, according to reports.
“It is like there are a pair of mystery eyes constantly watching me, and I don’t dare let my mind wander,” said an unnamed student at a high school in Hangzhou where authorities have installed cameras above the blackboard to monitor attention levels.
The school says the system can analyze pupils’ facial expressions to determine whether they're enjoying lessons and are attentive. It can recognize seven different facial expressions: neutral, happy, sad, disappointed, angry, scared, and surprised.
The data collected from the cameras will be used to ascertain each student’s level of concentration, as well as assess the teacher’s performance.
The cameras have been installed in just one classroom so far but the school says it plans to roll the system out to all classrooms by the summer.
The system fits into China’s broader push to use facial recognition technology across all areas of society.
In February, the government began deploying high-tech sunglasses capable of recognizing one face among 10,000 suspects in 100 milliseconds, in a bid to “prevent security risks, hunt down fugitives and spot fake IDs.”
It was revealed in March that facial recognition technology used to identify jaywalkers was being combined with mobile phone information to send text messages about fines directly to offenders.
These efforts are part of a wider push in China to create an “omnipresent, completely connected, always-on and fully-controllable” video surveillance network, China’s Ministry of Public Safety said in 2015. There are already some 170 million CCTV cameras installed across China, with 400 million more expected before 2020.
Cover image: With a security surveillance camera mounted above the teacher's podium, university professor, blogger, and member of the Muslim Uighur minority, Ilham Tohti lectures in a classroom in Beijing on June 12, 2010. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)