One Month, 500,00 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. To Profile A Minority

AI or artificial intelligence was once a concept that looked like something that leaped out of a science fiction movie. But as more and more people now hear about AI and experience the practical applications of it we find the tech to be more interesting than we perceived. While we often talk about the perks of using tech like AI there is also a dark side to tech. One of the best examples is the national level of racism that China is exhibiting. What is even more alarming is how the country is using a strong tech like AI for executing this.

Governments using a large scale connected network of surveillance cameras to monitor its citizens-is not a new concept. But integrating AI, facial recognition to be more specific, to target and monitor a minority group is something that China has recently been doing. There are several nations that have already condemned China’s policies and past racial discrimination encounters. Recently whistleblowers have spoken about the use of AI by the Chinese government to automate racism.

The country is using facial recognition algorithms to track the activities of Uighurs in China. This is a Muslin minority group. There are 11 million Uighurs reported to be residing in China. Any image you post online is likely to be used in order to train a facial recognition engine. But when the Governments start using this for racial discrimination the tech becomes more of a bane than a boon.

Uighurs are predominantly found in the Xinjiang region of China. There were several reports in 2018 that indicated that Chinese police are seeking AI integrated security cameras to track minorities. AI or facial recognition systems are only as biased as the creators. There is currently no plan of action to deal with this bias. This is one main reason behind the cases like Chinese surveillance on minority groups.

Sorting people or rather, faces, and assigning them to ethnic groups is possible today. China is however using this to take steps on minority groups, the Uighurs in particular. The country states the past records of Uighurs associated with terrorist attacks.

Yitu Software delivered a database that showed how the police ran 500,00 face scans in Sanmenxia within a month. This was in order to identify and verify the residents in the city. There were 2834 instances of recording Uighur faces in the scans during that month.  

There was a paper published in 2018 titled ‘Design of Intelligent Town Security System

Based on Face Recognition’. It spoke about using facial recognition to observe and track anomalous behavior and prevent crimes to improve safety. A Taiwanese Venture Capitalist, Kai-Fu Lee said, ‘We are not passive spectators in the story of A.I.- we are the authors of it.’ The Chinese government is more open to adopting such new tech and implementing it on a national level. The ethical implications of the use of AI might be a question here but the country has its own justifications.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *