Facial Recognition System Is Developing Rapidly and Widely Used In Chinese Society

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has invested $600 million dollars in SenseTime Group Ltd., which is a company developing AI to improve facial recognition. Alibaba developed a mobile payment system “Alipay” a few years ago to facilitate its online shopping website Taobao. Now Alipay has become one of the duopolies of Chinese mobile payment system together with WeChat Pay.

Alibaba has always been interested in developing artificial intelligence. Prior to this investment, its subsidiary corporation Ant Service Financial Group has developed an e-payment system using facial recognition. Alibaba is planning to use AI to research on developing the so-called smart cities where technology is used to dispatch police, speed traffic flow and regulate other public services.

Artificial intelligence has always been one of the most controversial topics to be debated. The plots described in Ex Machina and Westworld almost scared people with what AI is capable of doing. But in real life, AI has helped with the society in many perspectives. In one of my previous news response, I talked about how AI is used to prevent suicides. Despite the cons of unguaranteed privacy issue, the algorithm does reduce the number of suicides.

SenseTime surveillance software that helps identify details about people and vehicles was demonstrated at the company’s office in Beijing last year. PHOTO: REUTERS

In China, the whole well-developed surveillance systems rely on AI to function. These surveillance systems use facial recognition to identify criminal suspects and to regulate people’s behaviors such as preventing jaywalking by building a “social credit system”. Despite the purpose of making the society more regulated, I personally do not like how people are being watched 24/7. Some people on the internet are comparing the society to what is described in the TV series Black Mirror. The third series episode “Nosedive” presented a social rating-based system that several found mirrored by China’s proposed Social Credit System