China is using facial recognition to track Muslims. According to Bloomberg, a state-run defense contractor is testing a facial recognition system in Xinjiang, a region bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan with more than 10 million Muslims. The system alerts authorities when targeted people are 1,000 feet beyond designated “safe areas,” which include homes and workplaces.
Experts believe a system like this will prevent local police from having to stop everyone and ask for their papers or check their statuses. Many suspect this is the government’s reaction to terrorist attacks that took place in the region in 2013 and 2014. But this is not the first type of surveillance system in Xinjiang. Local government has ordered residents to install tracking systems in their cars and submit facial scans before entering a market or buying fuel.
China represents nearly 46% of the surveillance market and two thirds of deep learning servers used to analyze such data. Security experts say the surveillance tactics could reduce the price associated with controlling a large group of people, because out of fear of being watched, people would theoretically curtail their own freedom. But there is a lot of uncertainty associated with these surveillance methods — they also may come with an inherent bias.