The Chinese capital plans to use facial recognition technology to stamp out housing abuses. By adopting facial scanning system called ‘smart locks’ for its public housing scheme, Beijing seeks to improve security and counter crimes such as illicit subletting. The move also promises social benefit by looking out elderly people living alone. The housing management will be notified if senior residents have not been seen entering or leaving their homes over a specific duration of time. By July 2019, all of Beijing’s public housing schemes will be equipped with smart locks, impacting 120, 000 tenants.
The move reflects China’s growing use of facial recognition as well as video surveillance. Fortune claims that the country aims to develop a system whereby it not only can almost instantly identify individuals but also have “the ability to record an individual’s behavior to predict who might become a threat—a real-world version of the “precrime” in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report”.
Despite this major drive to heighten surveillance in the capital, the Chinese state-run news outlet, The Global Times, claims Chinese cities lag behind western counterparts in the field of video surveillance. The news source describes the scale of China’s video surveillance system as 20 % of less than that of the UK and 40 % that of the US. The same article states that “video surveillance is the core of the security and prevention industry” and ameliorates citizens’ feelings of safety and satisfaction. At present, Beijing has 1 surveillance camera per 17 city residents.