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Facial recognition for traffic control triggers privacy concerns

2018-05-16 06:03:22 China Plus

The facial recognition systems on trial in some Chinese cities to regulate traffic and reduce accidents have triggered concerns about privacy, reports People's Daily.

Traffic authorities in Shenzhen have introduced new cameras linked to facial recognition software to crack down on dangerous driving behaviors and jaywalking.

The cameras take videos of those who violate traffic regulations and report the identities of the violators via their facial characteristics. Punishments are then issued after human verification.

Some other cities have also started using high-tech measures to warn drivers and pedestrians who ignore red lights, as statistics show that 53 percent of fatal traffic accidents are caused every year by people running red lights.

Chen Yanyan, an expert on traffic regulation at the Beijing University of Technology, said regulation with high-tech has become a trend and it helps improve efficiency and precision of law enforcement and reduce violations.

Data show that the frequency of pedestrians running red lights at a crossing in Shenzhen has been reduced to 8 cases per hour from around 150 cases per hour, six months after the facial recognition system was installed.

However, technological advancement has also made some people worry about their privacy. Especially anxiety inducing are measures, implemented in some cities, that connect a person's traffic records with his or her personal credit rating.

Observers said the worries are understandable, as facial recognition systems track people's behaviors. Such information is considered more sensitive than static data, such as personal and financial information that is frequently collected due to administrative and commercial purposes in the mobile internet era.

Zhu Wei, a law expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, suggested collection and exposure of related information should be known and authorized by citizens.

"Law enforcement based on facial recognition requires the collection of pedestrians' information and integrating it into a huge database before comparing it with an existing database of citizens' personal information. That is very costly and indeed affects citizens' privacy protection," said Zhu.

Zhu said it is important to quicken the enactment of law on personal data protection while implementing new technologies on social administration.

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