Shanghai Database can Recognize 2 Million People Instantly

2 min

Shanghai police recruited some high-tech assistance for catching criminals—an artificial intelligence system that can instantaneously identify any of the nearly 2 million faces in its database.

The artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm called Dragon Eye uses China’s national database of 1.3 billion, along with 500 million more people who have entered the country in recent years.

“It’s challenging for the government [in Shanghai] to police such a large population. And it would be impossible without technology. Even when we have many cameras installed, it’s a hard task. You can’t watch all the videos, and doing a search is very time-consuming and requires too many resources to get meaningful results from such a huge amount of data,” said Zhu Long, chief executive and co-founder of Yitu, the company that developed the software. “But artificial intelligence can do it easily, and by using existing infrastructure.”

Dragon Eye started flagging faces in the Shanghai Metro in January 2017, helping catch 567 suspected criminals in its first three months on the job. Since then, 150 municipal and 20 provincial police have begun using the system, with a marked drop in the crime rate in those areas, added Long. “Our algorithm is more accurate than customs officials at telling whether two images show the same person. It can even find a subject among millions of others using a 25- or 30-year-old image. And in the past two years, the performance of machines has increased by 1,000 times,” said Long. “Our machines can very easily recognize you among at least 2 billion people in a matter of seconds, which would have been unbelievable just three years ago.”

Some aren’t so enthusiastic about the new technology, however. Privacy and human rights advocates argue Dragon Eye and similar algorithms could be misused by totalitarian governments to conduct comprehensive monitoring over a society.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) harshly criticized Dragon Eye, saying it is “designed to track and predict the activities of activists, dissidents and ethnic minorities, including those authorities say have extreme thoughts, among others.”

“Chinese authorities are collecting and centralizing ever more information about hundreds of millions of ordinary people, identifying persons who deviate from what they determine to be ‘normal thought’ and then surveilling them,” HRW China Director Sophie Richardson told SCMP.

“I think that in people’s lives there are issues of safety and issues of privacy. I think that when these two things come into conflict, Chinese people perhaps care more about safety,” said facial recognition expert Wang Shengjin, who teaches at Tsinghua University’s Department of Electronic Engineering.

China dished out $6.4 billion on surveillance this year, with that number rising at a steady annual 12 percent. The country now uses 176 million active surveillance cameras, expected to number 626 million by 2020, according to research firm IHS Market.

While the People’s Republic has gotten a bad rap for its societal controls, other countries are looking into systems like Dragon Eye. Germany announced in August it would test a biometric recognition system for Berlin’s subway.

And, the world’s most monitored nation remains the United Kingdom, possessing 20 percent of the world’s surveillance cameras to monitor its 65.6 million inhabitants—less than 1 percent of the global population.

Technologies are being developed that will make it impossible to hide anywhere. Those who are true to Jesus Christ, could easily be labeled deviants and extremists and apprehended for merely teaching biblical truth.

The enemy is preparing to completely cut off the presentation of truth. God’s messengers who give the last warning will not be able to escape detection and imprisonment, except by the power of God alone. Surveillance using AI will be used to track and detain those who may have done nothing but preach God’s word.

“While men are sleeping, Satan is actively arranging matters so that the Lord’s people may not have mercy or justice.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, page 452.

“The Protestants were counted as outlaws, a price was set upon their heads, and they were hunted down like wild beasts.” Great Controversy 271.2.

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