Chinese Authorities Intensify Biometric Surveillance in Xinjiang Region

“News of the surveillance program comes soon after the revelation that government authorities had been collecting the biometric data of all Xinjiang residents through an ostensible health program called ‘Physicals for All’.”

Chinese authorities have launched a biometric surveillance system in the Xinjian region designed to automatically alert authorities when individuals travel more than 300 meters from their homes or workplaces.

The system is based on facial recognition and operates through security cameras installed throughout the region. It is designed to track individuals on a watchlist of suspicious persons.

News of the surveillance program comes soon after the revelation that government authorities had been collecting the biometric data of all Xinjiang residents through an ostensible health program called ‘Physicals for All’. Xinjian is home to a sizeable minority of Uyghur Muslims whom Chinese authorities deem to pose a terrorist threat; as such, Xinjiang has become a kind of testing ground for ever more intrusive surveillance programs.

Citing data from IHS Markit, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that China will represent 46 percent of the global video surveillance market.

While the context of state oppression and intensive surveillance in Xinjiang lends this latest initiative an Orwellian air, the idea of using automated facial recognition technologies to detect watchlisted individuals is an increasingly popular one among governments around the world, with such systems having seen trials and deployments in countries like the United Kingdom and Germany, among others.

Sources: Bloomberg Businessweek, The Guardian

January 19, 2018 – by Alex Perala