The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is pressing forward with a lawsuit involving the facial recognition software offered by Amazon and Microsoft to government clients. In a complaint filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the ACLU asked for a variety of different records from the government, including inquiries to companies, meetings about the piloting or testing of facial recognition, voice recognition, and gait recognition technology, requests for proposals, and licensing agreements. At the heart of the lawsuit are Amazon's Rekognition and Microsoft's Face API, both facial recognition products that are available for customers of the companies' cloud platforms. The ACLU has also asked for more details on the US government's use of voice recognition and gait recognition, which is the automated process of comparing images of the way a person walks in order to identify them. Police in Shanghai and Beijing are already using gait-analysis tools to identify people.
In China, face recognition is transforming many aspects of daily life. Employees at e-commerce giant Alibaba in Shenzhen can show their faces to enter their office building instead of swiping ID cards. A train station in western Beijing matches passengers' tickets to their government-issued IDs by scanning their faces. If their face matches their ID card photo, the system deems their tickets valid and the station gate will open. The subway system in Hangzhou, a city about 125 miles southwest of Shanghai, employs surveillance cameras capable of recognizing faces to spot suspected criminals.
Residents of Shenzhen don't dare jaywalk. Since April 2017, this city in China's Guangdong province has deployed a rather intense technique to deter jaywalking. Anyone who crosses against the light will find their face, name, and part of their government ID number displayed on a large LED screen above the intersection, thanks to facial recognition devices all over the city. If that feels invasive, you don't even know the half of it. Now, Motherboard reports that a Chinese artificial intelligence company is partnering the system with mobile carriers, so that offenders receive a text message with a fine as soon as they are caught.
For the last few years, police forces around China have invested heavily to build the world's largest video surveillance and facial recognition system, incorporating more than 170 million cameras so far. In a December test of the dragnet in Guiyang, a city of 4.3 million people in southwest China, a BBC reporter was flagged for arrest within seven minutes of police adding his headshot to a facial recognition database. And in the southeast city of Nanchang, Chinese police say that last month they arrested a suspect wanted for "economic crimes" after a facial recognition system spotted him at a pop concert amidst 60,000 other attendees. These types of stories, combined with reports that computer vision recognizes some types of images more accurately than humans, makes it seem like the Panopticon has officially arrived. In the US alone, 117 million Americans, or roughly one in two US adults, have their picture in a law enforcement facial-recognition database.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. Police in China have nabbed three fugitives using facial-recognition technology at a series of concerts in Eastern China, the Wall Street Journal reports. Police have employed the surveillance tool over the past two months at performances by Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung, also known by his nicknames "God of Songs" and, more recently, "The Nemesis of Fugitives." In one case, police were able to use a facial-recognition system to identify a 31-year-old man in a crowd of 60,000 concertgoers, according to state media. In another, the technology recognized a man who allegedly failed to pay for $17,000 worth of potatoes in 2015 and had since then been living under a pseudonym.