China's shaming system for crossing the road illegally is enough to put anyone off
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A Chinese surveillance system publicly shames people who are spotted jaywalking in the street.
It might seem like an innocuous thing to do, but crossing the street at the wrong time in China could mean that your name and face are plastered on a LED screen for all to see.
China has drawn a lot of attention over its mass surveillance and conceptions about how this technology is used in public life. Facial recognition is widely used as a tool, including with foreign visitors.
Authorities in Shenzhen use CCTV cameras fitted with AI that can recognise offenders that breach the rules of the road.
The southern city started using the AI cameras in April 2017 and, according to police, within 10 months had displayed the 13,939 jaywalking offenders in one screen at a junction in Futian district.
Authorities in Shenzhen also launched a public website to name and shame offenders.
Janine Wong, a news researcher in Shanghai, said: “It doesn’t matter if you’re walking or riding a bicycle.
“[Your image] will be captured, and your face will show up on a screen nearby so everyone can see your face.
“Once they identify your face, all your information (like mobile phone number) is linked.”
China has also experimented with a so-called 'social credit system'. This would monitor the supposed trustworthiness of individuals based on their behaviour and misbehaviour.
It isn't just an empty figure either, an individual's social credit score could have a direct impact on someone's life. This could be their employability, taking out a loan or credit card, or eligibility for renting housing.
Many western governments and media outlets railed about the idea, saying that China was rating its civilians like something out of Black Mirror. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.
In many ways, the social credit is similar to a regular credit score, taking account of financial history, like if you pay your bills on time, and criminal records.
Some cities did experiment with taking the level of scrutiny further. This included misdemeanours such as being publicly intoxicated, littering, and jaywalking having a negative impact on your social credit score.
However, the idea proved unpopular and was widely criticised in the regions where it was trialled, before eventually being scrapped.
There are still government 'blacklists' which result in some privileges being taken away. However, to get on these you would need to do something more serious, such as refuse to pay a fine or owe the government money. Simply jaywalking or littering a couple of times won't cut it.
Nonetheless, if jaywalking does mean that your face and name are plastered on a huge billboard, I wouldn't fancy that either.