In China, which has an estimated 200 million surveillance cameras already in use, some cities are using facial recognition and AI technology to track and identify criminals and in some cases to shame people for law infractions, according to an article in The New York Times.

According to the Times, China is building an authoritarian future in which a police officer scanned a crowd with facial recognition glasses at a Zhengzhou train station and spotted a heroin smuggler, AI cameras assisted police capture two dozen criminal suspects at a beer festival in Qingdao, and fugitives are identified as they shop. 

The article also describes cities in which billboard-size displays show the faces, names and government I.D. numbers of jaywalkers, and list the names of people who have unpaid debts. 

While the goal appears to be a nation-wide network of surveillance technology to identify and track 1.4 billion people, so far the technology is patchy, allowing such technology in certain areas but not others. The article states the Chinese government often overstates its abilities, however, using the perception of surveillance to keep the public in line. 

The article also discusses the political implications and the climate that is leading Xi Jinping, China’s President and General Secretary of the Communist Party, to assert his authority and that of the Communist Party.

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