The Chinese police in Nanchang made news in mid-April when the press reported the arrest at a concert of a man wanted for fraud. The story was significant because automatic facial recognition systems, linked through now 176 million cameras across the country (rising to 600 million by 2020), had picked the man out of a crowd of 60,000 concertgoers and allowed the police to pinpoint his location in real time.

The episode was promoted by the Chinese government as proof positive of the benefits of the Chinese surveillance state, but the notion that an authoritarian government uses automatic facial recognition to track its citizens everywhere has sent shivers down the spine of anyone concerned about privacy and who may not have full faith in the benevolence of the Chinese government. READ MORE