China is using new tools to spy on its citizens, including cameras, face and fingerprint databases and phone scanners, a surveillance push that is empowering the country's police and offering little privacy to millions of people, reports The New York Times.
The number of populations under surveillance in China has grown over the years, along with the collection of their personal data. Police are using the databases to track criminals, migrant workers, ethnic minority groups, government critics and protestors, among others.
"Each person's data forms a trail," said Agnes Ouyang, a technology worker in the southern city of Shenzhen, told the Times. "It can be used by the government, and it can be used by bosses at the big companies to track us. Our lives are worth about as much as dirt."
China's facial recognition database includes almost every one of its 1.4 billion people, according to CNBC, and plans to be the global leader in artificial intelligence by 2030.
In Zhengzhou, police installed four cameras and two white small boxes at the gates of an apartment complex. Over four days, the system matched about 3,000 phones with faces. The city also surveils citizens by monitoring license plates, phone numbers, faces, and social media information.
"The whole bureaucratic system is broken," Borge Bakken, a professor at Australian National University who studies China's police, told the Times. "Under Xi Jinping, we're seeing the flowering of a police state."
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