China is putting surveillance cameras in plenty of schools
Where US schools turn to facial recognition for safety, Chinese schools are doing it to manage students
Being watched by facial recognition cameras when walking around schools? That's not sci-fi anymore.
Responding to deadly shootings, US schools are turning to facial recognition technology to try and prevent them happening. Lockport City schools have been installing a facial recognition-enabled system that will supposedly detect dangerous people on campus -- and alert the police. Schools in Broward County are adding a surveillance system that can supposedly recognize unusual behavior (though not with facial recognition).
It’s not a surprise that reaction has been strong -- there are deep concerns about much tracking these systems do, the impact on privacy, what it means for the rights of the students being watched, and the security of the data generated.
Equally, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that surveillance in schools is common in China, where attitudes are very different.
In schools across China, facial recognition cameras are being installed in gates, canteens and even classrooms to watch over students. But it's said to be less about preventing crime and more about helping schools and teachers manage students.
Unsurprisingly, Chinese state media cheers the use of facial recognition as part of “using big data to improve life on campus”. There's a big push for smart campuses across the country, and increasing surveillance -- part of the country's massive SkyNet.
Some schools use them to allow students to check in simply by scanning their face, like the prestigious Peking University and a number of high schools. Others set up facial recognition in canteens to let students pay for their meals that way.
Most of these might seem benign or even useful, but other schools have faced criticism for more invasive uses. One high school in Hangzhou faced a backlash on Chinese social media for using cameras to analyze the faces of students -- to see if they're dozing off in class.
A number of schools are also buying "intelligent uniforms", equipped with a chip to precisely track students -- and combined with a facial recognition system to ensure that someone hasn't just grabbed a friend's jacket for the day.
The company producing the uniforms says they designed them for the safety of students, and are now exporting them to other Asian countries like India.
But Chinese netizens are skeptical about the uniforms. One Zhihu user says, “If you’re designing the uniforms for the students’ safety, why are you planning to add an ‘anti-dozing-off’ function?”