A Chinese research facility is coming under fire for developing an extremely invasive social profiling tool. The Hefei Comprehensive National Science Center unveiled its solution in a video posted to its Weibo account on June 30, and claims that the product can measure someone’s loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) based on their facial biometrics.
The post has since been deleted, but the descriptions that can still be found on the Internet Archive state that the tool is designed explicitly for propaganda and political indoctrination. The solution is essentially a form of emotion detection, and uses computer vision tech to read someone’s countenance and gauge comprehension and their level of enthusiasm while receiving political and ideological instruction. The solution is based on lie detector technology, and also makes use of EEG and skin conductivity tech to generate a loyalty score.
According to Hefei, the tool can help the CCP evaluate the effectiveness of its education techniques and develop better methods. However, the metric for success is whether or not subjects “feel grateful to the CCP, do as it tells them and follow its lead,” which does little to dispel accusations of brainwashing. It’s also problematic given the known accuracy issues around emotion detection. Microsoft recently decided to stop selling emotion detection tech precisely because people display emotions in different ways and there is no one-to-one correlation between an expression and an underlying sentiment.
Given those accuracy issues, it is highly unlikely that Hefei’s tool can measure loyalty with any degree of certainty. If implemented, such a system would be extremely prone to bias, which could lead to severe discrimination if decisions are being made based on those results. The general public largely seems to share those concerns. The Weibo post was deleted amidst a deluge of critical comments from people within China who took issue with the prospect of such an invasive tool.
Hefei had originally released the video to celebrate the CCP’s anniversary on July 1. European officials have pushed to ban social profiling technology that looks at someone’s emotional state, while China has repeatedly drawn criticism for trying to monitor social behavior. The country has also seen the use of computer vision in the classroom to measure attentiveness.
Source: Radio Free Asia
July 7, 2022 – by Eric Weiss