July 11, 2011
by Mark Ollig
The Chinese citizens living in the city of Chongqing will soon have 500,000 new surveillance cameras aimed at them.
An upgrade of the municipality’s existing video surveillance system is currently being implemented.
This project has been described as a “massive surveillance system.”
The new video surveillance system (which will blanket most of the city) is being installed in order to “create a secured environment for the city.”
Chongqing, located in southwest China, is a city of about 33 million people and covers an area of 31,800 square miles.
About 4 million people work and live in the city’s urban area.
The Chongqing Municipal People’s Government website describes the city as “Towering mountains keyed in the valley, carrying Chongqing’s three thousand years of civilization.”
The general contractor for the new video surveillance system is Hikvision Digital Technology Co., Ltd., which is headquartered in Hangzhou, China.
Hikvision is in charge of the project’s design and will see to its deployment.
The cost for the project was disclosed in an article I found from an online website called Government Security News.
The article says a press release issued by Hikvision reports the total project investment will be in excess of $800 million in US dollars.
Meanwhile, The Huffington Post, in a related story about the Chongqing project, reported an additional $1.6 billion is being added to this project from “unknown sources.”
A Wall Street Journal article states during the course of the next three years, in one of China’s biggest and most complex surveillance projects ever, Cisco, and other western companies will be providing the hardware and technology required for building the Chongqing surveillance system.
The new video surveillance system will have cameras covering most of the Chongqing’s intersections, neighborhoods, and parks.
By law, American companies are banned from selling or exporting “crime control” products to China.
However, they are allowed to sell products – in this case video products – which are used for non-violent purposes.
The Chongqing video surveillance project has been named “Peaceful Chongqing.”
The Wall Street Journal wrote they have no evidence that any of the equipment Cisco sells is being customized for the purpose of crime control.
The Wall Street Journal also quoted a Cisco spokesperson as saying the company “hasn’t sold video cameras or video-surveillance solutions in any of our public infrastructure projects in China.”
An article from the online media site, Fast Company, suggests how this new surveillance system could go far beyond the simple monitoring of the movements of individuals and vehicles.
The article says it would be a simple matter of linking the video surveillance system into the government’s own public ID database (which is assumed China has) to activate, for example, facial recognition capabilities.
This capability could interface with computational algorithmic formulas to be used for alerting government officials if a specific “politically questionable” individual or individuals were captured on a surveillance camera.
Their current location could also be instantly provided to government officials.
“There’s a fine line between ‘preventing crime,’ using totally off-the-shelf Cisco gear, and re-purposing that same ‘Peaceful Chongqing’ network of cameras to spy on the population,” said Kit Eaton, in the article he wrote for Fast Company.
It is commonly-known that Google has the capability of using facial recognition technology which could automatically identify the faces of people found in the many billions of web pages its search bots have crawled through and indexed over the years.
Google has not implemented this capability in their image search results, due to the possible misuse it could cause.
Nevertheless, Google has the technology available.
Also, since October 2001, the US has been tracking our location whenever we use a cell phone to place a 911 call.
Under an FCC enhanced 911 (E911) mandate, all wireless carriers must provide the geolocation of an emergency 911 caller to the appropriate public safety answering point.
The cellular triangulation technology must determine the caller’s geographical longitude and latitude location within 160 feet for 67 percent of emergency calls, and within 492 feet for 95 percent of 911 emergency calls.
The new Chinese video surveillance system could, for example, not only be connected into a facial recognition system, but also into advanced voice recognition systems, and specialized cell phone call processing monitoring systems.
This would provide an ultra-enhanced tracking capability of individuals, and is very doable using today’s best computing technology.
Right now, we know for certain that the Chinese city of Chongqing is currently installing a widespread video surveillance system networked with at least 500,000 video surveillance cameras located throughout the city, at a cost of more than $800 million.
“We built up a project team to conduct detailed planning based on local conditions and requirements in Chongqing City. We are making every effort to strengthen our technologies to deliver comprehensive city surveillance solutions to improve public safety,” said Yangzhong Hu, the president of Hikvision Digital Technology Co., Ltd.
I located a picture of a video surveillance camera currently installed on a street post in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. You can see it at http://tinyurl.com/42sgope.