Chinese police are apparently able to read automated alarm alerts from public surveillance cameras and analyze the footage.
Police in China collect data from surveillance cameras
Surveillance cameras made by Chinese manufacturer Hikvision and placed in public spaces can apparently record much more than just video. According to a report in the British magazine The Guardian, citing technical documents from the manufacturer, Chinese police are able to create automated alert warnings from the surveillance cameras.
This can be used, for example, to inform authorities when various protests or unusual gatherings of people are brewing – as was the case, for example, most recently at Foxconn’s iPhone factory.
According to the report, for example, “gatherings of crowds to disturb public order” or “unlawful assemblies, processions, demonstrations” and “petitions” are among the warnings that the surveillance cameras transmit as alerts to the police.
Furthermore, the cameras of the Chinese camera and surveillance system manufacturer Hikvision inform the authorities, for example, about gambling activities, fires or religious actions of the Falun Gong movement, which is suppressed in China.
Exactly what these alerts look like and how they are technically implemented, however, is not clear from the report. The cameras do, however, offer facial recognition, which can also be used to analyze certain behaviors.
According to the report, certain attributes are recorded in a “personal dictionary”. These include political status, religion, ethnicity and even physical descriptions of the people recorded, such as hair length, whether they wear glasses, their age and even whether they smile.
In the U.S., surveillance cameras from the manufacturer Hikvision have recently been banned, although the manufacturer naturally denies all accusations.