The first time many of us heard about China's use of facial recognition on jaywalkers was just this week when a prominent Chinese businesswoman was publicly "named and shamed" for improper street crossing. Turns out, she wasn't even there: China's terrifyingly over-the-top use of tech for citizen surveillance made a mistake. The AI system identified Dong Mingzhu's face from a bus advertisement for her company's products. "[The] president of China's biggest air conditioning maker," wrote The Telegraph, "had her image flashed up on a public display screen in the city of Ningbo, near Shanghai, with a caption saying she had illegally crossed the street on a red light." Shortly after, Ningbo traffic police admitted the mistake and claimed to have "completely upgraded the system to reduce the false recognition rate."
SAN FRANCISCO – Eleven employees comprising engineers and managers at Alphabet Inc.'s Google published an open letter on Tuesday, demanding that the company end development of a censored search engine for Chinese users, escalating earlier protests over the secretive project. Google has described the search app, known as Project Dragonfly, as an experiment not close to launching. But as details of it have leaked since August, current and former employees, human rights activists and U.S. lawmakers have criticized Google for not taking a harder line against the Chinese government's policy that politically sensitive results be blocked. Human rights group Amnesty International also launched a public petition on Tuesday calling on Google to cancel Dragonfly. The organization said it would encourage Google workers to sign the petition by targeting them on LinkedIn and protesting outside Google offices.
A senior Google research scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China. Jack Poulson worked for Google's research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company's search systems. In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China's authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google.
Google is developing a version of its search engine that will conform to China's censorship laws, reports say. The company shut down the engine in 2010, complaining that free speech was being limited. But online news site The Intercept says Google has being working on a project code-named Dragonfly that will block terms like human rights and religion, a move sure to anger activists. One state-owned newspaper in China, Securities Daily, dismissed the report. "We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com," it said.