China’s facial recognition business

China’s manufacturing sector may be slowing, but its facial recognition industry is booming.

Driving the news: Recent infrastructure projects supported by artificial intelligence (read: smart cities with surveillance capabilities) have catapulted China into becoming a global leader in exporting facial recognition technology, according to a Brookings Institute study

Why it matters: The rise of facial recognition in the public domain has generated concerns over unsavoury uses, with mounting examples of use (and misuse) by police departments and companies, like Clearview AI, that sell tools connecting video footage to online profiles.

  • These technologies “may kind of flip [countries] to become more autocratic, when they could become more democratic,” Martin Beraja, an MIT economist, told WIRED.

Yes, but: The problem, in the eyes of the US, seems to be less about the rising and questionable use of facial recognition—the US currently has no national standards that restrict or limit its use—and more about who controls a greater share of the global market.  

  • US officials also worry that Chinese facial recognition technology could be used for intelligence gathering and surveillance purposes in Western countries.

What’s next: The West—particularly the US—has gone to great lengths to undermine the use of Chinese technology worldwide, including the ban on Huawei’s 5G technology and a Chinese chip embargo. Taking it one step further could rule out facial recognition, too.