FREEDOM AND SAFETY
China’s latest weapon in its war against citizen privacy: gait recognition software.
According to a new story by the Associated Press, police in Beijing and Shanghai are using a gait recognition system developed by artificial intelligence company Watrix to identify Chinese citizens - even when their faces aren’t visible.
Watrix claims its system can identify a person from up to 165 feet away even if their back is to a camera or their face turned away. It doesn’t require any special cameras, either - it can analyze existing surveillance footage to ID an individual with 94 percent accuracy.
“You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity,” Watrix CEO Huang Yongzhen told the AP. “Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet, or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”
However, the software doesn’t yet work in real time. It needs roughly 10 minutes to analyze about an hour’s worth of video, during which time it extracts a person’s silhouette and then creates a model of their individual gait.
It’s easy to see how this technology could be useful on a smaller scale. A company could produce a database of all its employees’ gaits and then use that database to ensure unauthorized individuals aren’t in restricted areas.
It’s harder to imagine how China could make use of the technology on a nationwide scale, though.
Facial recognition tech is easy to implement because the faces of most citizens are already in government databases. Would the nation need to produce a similar database of citizen gaits? Or would the tech work retroactively - arrest someone for a crime, have them walk for you, and then compare their gait to that of the criminal caught on camera?
Whatever the case may be, police in Beijing and Shanghai are making use of this tech somehow, which means it might just be a matter of time before anyone on the move in China will find themselves under the watchful eye of the nation’s government.