China’s growing adoption of facial recognition technologies used in pursuit of the country’s criminals has led to the arrest of yet another suspect as of April 12. That’s according to recent reports from the country, which say the man was able to be identified while in attendance at a concert. The 31-year-old, identified only by his surname Ao, was reportedly surprised to have been caught since so many people had attended the show. However, the number of people in attendance may have actually worked against Ao, in this case. According to police, it was the fact that the concert drew in a crowd of over 60,000 people which led to their decision to monitor it.
The process wasn’t necessarily very complex, either. In fact, the cameras used to identify Ao were those at the entrances to the event. So the automated identification system didn’t need to scan as many faces at one time as some might expect. Perhaps more helpfully, the system was linked back to the database at the district’s police station in order to make comparisons. The system was not, as it were, specifically looking for the suspect in who was apprehended. Instead, it was scanning for the presence of any and all suspects in the police database who might feel inclined to attend an event put on by such a popular singer. Once Ao was identified, police simply waited to question him as he left the show. Then, after ensuring he was the individual wanted for questioning about an earlier economic dispute, he was arrested. The steps involved are not dissimilar to the same prior cases in the country that have spurred further interest in this use of the technology.
While the outcome of this situation appears to be mostly positive, there are still plenty of objections to China’s decision to use these kinds of technology in this way. Concerns center around how easily such a system could be circumvented for use to empower a dystopian state. Beyond that, with other governments looking into the solution, many worry that it won’t necessarily be China who goes that route. Rather, the concern is that even if it doesn’t result in a totalitarian regime in the region, it may inspire that use of it elsewhere.