China, Russia, India: facial recognition surveillance projects far from the capitals
Unmanned police surveillance vehicles patrol a city in Xinjiang, a Russian city in the Arctic Circle deploys a powerful facial recognition network and the southern Indian state of Telangana continues to saturate itself with CCTV.
Driverless police patrol cars with facial recognition deployed in Xinjiang
The shopping centers, tourist spots and residential areas of Karamay (Mandarin: Kelemayi), a city in the north of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, are now being patrolled 24 hours a day by 20 unmanned electric police patrol vehicles, reports Radio Free Asia (RFA).
The cars, built locally, are equipped with eight surveillance cameras that can rotate 360-degrees, a local police officer told RFA before the call was cut off. Details on a government website stated that the vehicles perform facial recognition and tracking.
Self-driving patrols began with five cars in February in the city. Chinese media reported that they are expected to be deployed across Xinjiang. The manufacturer, Zhongke Tianji has sad it plans to produce 3,000 of the smart cars.
Geoffrey Cain, U.S. journalist and author of The Perfect Police State: An Undercover Odyssey into China’s Terrifying Surveillance Dystopia of the Future, told RFA that he believes that in this case the vehicles are being used more as a visual scare tactic, giving the impression that the government is always watching.
Facial recognition in Russian Barents coast city of Murmansk
Murmansk, a city on a deep bay off the Barents sea on Russia’s northwestern coastline near the borders of Norway and Finland, is to have 1,658 new CCTV cameras as part of a facial recognition-enabled Smart City pilot, reports The Barents Observer.
1,400 CCTV are already installed in the Murmansk region, Russia’s largest city within the Artic Circle. 600 new cameras will installed by 1 September according to the Minister of Digital Development in the region. By the end of 2022 there will be 1,658 new cameras installed in 868 locations.
A new video analytics management center will control the feeds from the cameras, using computer vision to connect the streams, recognizing individuals against databases. The system will work the other way around, conducting a search for a specific person in a database via facial recognition.
Russian authorities reportedly use facial recognition networks to find and detain journalists.
India’s Telangana on verge of becoming ‘complete surveillance state’
The recently-formed state of Telangana in southern India has been allowing big technology companies to test their surveillance software there, according to Srinivas Kodali, researcher at the advocacy organization Free Software Movement of India, as reports Slate as part of Future Tense, a partnership between Slate, New America and Arizona State University to report on how technologies change the way we live.
The bureaucracy of state capital – and tech hub – Hyderabad buys up much of the software developed there and tests it on its population, Kodali told Slate. This includes facial recognition technologies for finding missing persons, identify voters and distribute rations.
The state has developed a smart governance program called Samagram – a centralized database of residents’ personal details.
Telangana is one of the most surveilled states in India with most of its 900,000 CCTV cameras in Hyderabad, finds Slate. In terms of police CCTV cameras, 61 percent of all in use in India are in Telangana.
The state also has the highest number of facial recognition projects of any state.
Various operations have been conducted in the state to capture citizens’ biometrics, generally in areas where Muslims and other socioeconomically marginalized communities live. Stop and search operations also collect biometrics.
A Command and Control Centre will monitor the facial recognition cameras in real time. Cameras will track individuals: “The cameras cover every inch of Telangana. All these cameras will be integrated and monitored in real-time at the Command and Control Centre, which will be able to process the footage from 100,000 cameras in under a minute,” said a tweet from the Telangana government earlier this year, according to Slate.
The Information Technology Minister of India’s Telangana state, KT Rama Rao, spoke about his state’s use of surveillance, AI and the importance of public trust during a panel discussion at a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) gathering in Davos.
“It’s important to use a consensual method which ensures that citizens are given a choice of consent in the use of such technologies, and also to ensure that officials in the government are educated and have limited access to the data,” said Rao. “There have been criticisms and concerns, but by and large, I think ours has been a successful model, and it’s helping the society at large.”