China uses surveillance tech to shame citizens for 'uncivilized behavior'

A Chinese city has started using cutting edge surveillance technology to discourage "uncivilized behavior" such as wearing pyjamas, lying down, and blocking the road in public.

"We've all left our house in our pyjamas to get groceries when we've run out of items but it classifies as "uncivilized behavior," according to bureaucrats in the Chinese city of Suzhou.

Named and shamed for wearing PJs, lying down in public

In order to deter citizens from displaying such "uncivilized" behavior in public, the Suzhou City Management Bureau has started shaming them by posting images of seven people who were caught walking the streets in their pyjamas on its WeChat account, as reported by local publication The Paper.

The images were captured using CCTV cameras with AI and facial recognition capabilities that can identify citizens and track down the person's name and ID card number.

"Uncivilized behavior refers to when people behave and act in ways that violate public order because they lack public morals," read the now deleted WeChat post, according to the New York Times. "Many people think that this is a small problem and not a big deal... Others believe public places are truly 'public,' where there is no blame, no supervision and no public pressure. This has brought about a kind of complacent, undisciplined mind set."

After receiving media attention and criticism, the Suzhou authorities issued a public apology. "We wanted to put an end to uncivilized behavior, but of course we should protect residents' privacy," officials said in a statement obtained by the BBC. The officials added that they would, in future, blur people's faces out of the images instead.

Using tech to discipline citizens

The post shamed a total of 15 people for activities such as playing cards in large groups, blocking roads, handing out flyers and lying down in public, according to the report. This isn't the first time Chinese officials have used the power of technology to embarrass and discipline its citizens. In Shenzhen, local government plastered the names and faces of jaywalkers on a digital billboard.

Singapore police cameras

Last year, Chinese researchers developed an ultra-powerful 500-megapixel camera capable of identifying an individual seated in a stadium of tens of thousands of people. The camera's resolution is apparently five times more powerful than the human eye and has been designed specifically for surveillance purposes.

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