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Chinese police are now using facial recognition sunglasses to scan people

Imagine if the police could find your identity and address simply by looking at you

Police in China are now using surveillance glasses to track down suspects. The AI-powered specs look like Google Glass, but with a sinister difference: police can use them to snap photos of people they see, and cross-reference those images with a database, finding the person's name, gender, age, and even ethnicity in one-tenth of a second. 

Unlike existing facial recognition systems used to unlock a phone or serve as a boarding pass, this new technology is able to see even the smallest things that differentiate people’s faces. Details like the shape of the lips, size of the nose or eye colour are scanned at the speed of light and then sent to a central unit that matches the features with an existing database. It even works if your face is in shadow. Long story short: this is not a tool you can bypass with a new haircut.

The glasses were first introduced at the beginning of February, when Chinese police held a test at Zhengzou train station where 26 travellers under false identities were caught, and seven crime suspects were arrested. 

According to Reuters, it was the recent vote for the lifetime rule of president Xi Jinping that motivated the government to build in this extra security. This way, journalists, criminals, political dissidents, human rights activists, and other unwelcome guests could easily be expelled from meetings.

It's easy to see how this technology could accelerate our descent into a total dystopia. Human rights activists point out that the system offers an easy way to discriminate on the basis of people’s ethnicities, while others fear that it will give the president even more power to enforce his will. In combination with the sharpened censorship rules and the social credit system China recently introduced, the world's largest surveillance state is only getting more and more restrictive.