Beijing Police Use Smart Glasses to Identify Passengers and Scan Vehicle Plates

China uses 'Black Tech' to tighten security on potential criminal travelers.

Giving new meaning to the threat, “You can run, but you can’t hide,” Beijing police officers are now using facial recognition smart glasses to identify car passengers and scan number plates. A demonstration video shows an actor wearing LLVision smart glasses that appear to be similar to the glasses initially used by police last month in a Zhengzhou East Railway Station. 

The glasses, according to Reuters, were first utilized at a highway checkpoint earlier this month. The LLVision glasses use artificial intelligence to compare drivers, passengers and plates to a supposed blacklist database in milliseconds. If a vehicle or face matches, the glasses will display a red box to indicate a potential warning.  

This depsite the previous month’s Henan test being met with both praise and protest. Ahead of Chinese New Year, the glasses were able to easily identify suspected criminals of infringements ranging from simple traffic violations to the serious matter of human trafficking. Additionally, the glasses snagged 26 people using fake identity travel documents and stopped them in their tracks. 

But beyond the demonstration’s relative authoritative success, the question remains whether the police’s use of smart glasses is an infringement on citizen’s right to privacy. “Chinese authorities seem to think they can achieve ‘social stability’ by placing people under a microscope, but these abusive programmes are more likely to deepen hostility towards the government,” Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, previously stated in the Independent. “Beijing should immediately stop these programmes, and destroy all data gathered without full, informed consent.”

However the CEO of LLVision, Wu Fei, feels at ease with the tech’s implementation. "We trust the government," Wu said in Reuters. He added that Beijing is using the A.I. devices for "noble causes." Perhaps, by 2020, those noble causes will include creating a Social Credit System meant to rank the "trustworthiness" of China’s citizens. But you know what they say about glass—when you look through it you see the world, but all one needs to do is add a little silver to the glass and all he’ll see is himself.