Nov 2, 2019

China touts dubious emotion recognition tech

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China touted emotion recognition systems as a means of crime prevention at its 2019 Public Security Expo, Financial Times reports (subscription), although experts say the tech doesn't work as advertised.

Reality check: "The science on emotion recognition is pretty bogus," ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley tells Axios. A July study found that it is not possible to confidently assign emotional states to facial expressions "regardless of context, person, and culture" — "as much of current technology tries to do."

What's happening: China says it's rolling out the tech in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims are kept in mass detainment camps, and in subway stations and airports to "identify criminal suspects," per FT.

“At present only a few schools and public security bureaus have products that include this type of technology,” Zhen Wenzhuang told FT, adding that emotion recognition has "not been fully developed for commercial use" in China.

Between the lines: Even if the tech doesn't track emotions as advertised, being watched or even thinking you're being watched can still have a psychological effect and encourage people to change their behavior, as seen in workplace polling.

In the U.S., Microsoft claims that its Face API program can identify emotions like contempt, happiness and disgust. Amazon's Reokognition points out that when its API identifies someone's facial expression, it "is not a determination of the person’s internal emotional state."

Go deeper: AI is "awakening" surveillance cameras

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IBM calls for regulation to avoid facial recognition bans

Facial recognition at Dulles Airport. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty

IBM, one of several Big Tech companies selling facial recognition programs, is calling on Congress to regulate the technology — but not too much.

Why it matters: China has built a repressive surveillance apparatus with facial recognition; now, some U.S. cities are rolling it out for law enforcement. But tech companies worry that opponents will react to these developments by kiboshing the technology completely.

Go deeperArrowNov 6, 2019

Report: Leaked files show how mass detention of Uighurs was organized

A building, believed to house a detention center, in Hotan, in the Xinjiang region of China. Photo: Peter Martin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than 400 pages of internal Chinese government documents obtained by the New York Times show the origins and execution of China’s detention of as many as 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominately Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.

Why it matters: This is "one of the most significant leaks of government papers from inside China’s ruling Communist Party in decades," per the Times. The documents, shared by an anonymous member of the Chinese political establishment, imply "greater discontent inside the party apparatus over the crackdown than previously known."

Go deeperArrowNov 16, 2019

U.S. military unknowingly bought Chinese surveillance tech, prosecutors say

Surveillance cameras at China's 2019 Public Security Expo on Oct. 28. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP

New York-based Aventura Technologies sold Chinese-made surveillance equipment to the U.S. military for over a decade, the New York Times reports, and federal prosecutors say the company lied about the origin of its products.

The big picture: Aventura Technologies sold surveillance, night-vision and body cameras, automated turnstiles and other security equipment to various government agencies, including the Department of Energy, prosecutors said. The equipment "was vulnerable to hacking ... raising the possibility that American government agencies had installed software in their security networks that could be used for spying by China."

Go deeperArrowNov 8, 2019