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The New Surveillance State

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We tagged along and caught a break. Mr. Shan, who was affably holding court, gladly handed over the device to try.

One of the more dystopian tools of China’s burgeoning surveillance-industrial complex, it was not exactly slick or really all that functional. A small camera is mounted to a pair of sunglasses. The camera is then connected by wire to a minicomputer that looks and works a bit like an oversize smartphone. The device checks the images snapped by the camera against a database. In essence, it’s a moving version of the photo systems that some countries have at customs checkpoints.

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With a bit of squinting and adjustment I found my right eye looking through a view finder like one on an old video camera. First I was instructed to aim it at a female officer. A small rectangle appeared around her head, and after a few seconds, the screen displayed her name and national identification number. I then repeated the process on Mr. Shan.

Emboldened, I tried the glasses out on a group standing about 20 feet away. For a moment, the glasses got a lock on a man’s face. But then the group noticed me, and the man blocked his face with his hand. The minicomputer failed to register a match before he moved. Seconds later, the people scattered.

Their reaction was somewhat surprising. Chinese people often report that they’re comfortable with government surveillance, and train stations are known to be closely watched. The logic often expressed is that those who are law abiding have nothing to fear.

The men fleeing from my techno-enhanced gaze clearly felt differently — and I assume they weren’t criminals on the lam.


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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/technology/china-surveillance-state.html

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