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China just rolled out police glasses that track its citizens

The technology will make "China’s surveillance state all the more ubiquitous.”

by David Gilbert
Feb 8 2018, 12:38pm

Getty Images

High-tech sunglasses capable of recognizing one face among 10,000 suspects in 100 milliseconds are being deployed by the Chinese government, according to local media reports Wednesday.

The real-time, facial recognition glasses are being used to “prevent security risks, hunt down fugitives, and spot fake IDs,” state media reported.

The technology is being tested in the megacity of Zhengzhou by police patrolling the city’s train station, a major national transportation hub. The glasses are monitoring the mass migration that takes place ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations later this month, a time when many Chinese people return home.

Police said that in the first five days of the trial the glasses identified seven people suspected of human trafficking and hit-and-run accidents, as well as 26 people using fake IDs.

The eyewear is the latest example of Beijing’s push to monitor citizens’ every move — both online and in the real world. China is already the world leader in deploying artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to analyze CCTV footage of public spaces.

There are some 170 million CCTV cameras installed across China, with 400 million more expected before 2020. The glasses will give authorities a view of public spaces that fixed cameras can’t reach.

Authorities are touting the glasses’ criminal-catching capabilities, but human rights charities warn they could be used to crackdown on dissidents and activists.

“The potential to give individual police officers facial-recognition technology in sunglasses could eventually make China’s surveillance state all the more ubiquitous,” William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International said.

The glasses were made by a Chinese company called LLVision Technology, who worked closely with officials to integrate facial recognition into the headset, which features a wearable video camera.

The headset is controlled by a connected mobile unit and the technology can pick out a face from a preloaded database of 10,000 suspects.

“It gives you the ability to check anywhere,” Fei Wu, the CEO of LLVision, told the Wall Street Journal.

Cover image: A police officer wearing a pair of smartglasses with a facial recognition system at Zhengzhou East Railway Station in Zhengzhou in China's central Henan province. (AFP/Getty Images)