According to a March 6 report from Tibet News, a Chinese state-run online news site, 200 new taxis were put into operation in Lhasa in February—equipped with real-time video surveillance—before they were assigned to taxi drivers.
The GPS (Global Positioning System) has been upgraded from running on 2G mobile networks to 4G to optimize real-time monitoring. The Tibet News article claimed that the technology was intended to “prevent drivers from violating safety regulations such as smoking and making phones calls while driving.”
According to a July 2018 article on Chinese news portal Sohu describing similar facial recognition systems dedicated for taxis and buses, the technology is capable of scanning, analyzing, and storing biometric data of everyone inside the vehicle. If the system detects any suspects or suspicious behavior, it will report to the police immediately. In addition, before starting the taxi, the driver must scan his or her face in front of the surveillance camera—so the system can ensure that the person is the registered driver of the vehicle. The driving route is also being monitored at all times.
This system combines biometrics, big data analysis, and other technologies.
A recent data leak incident demonstrated the scope of personal data being collected by such facial recognition systems.
In February this year, SenseNets, one of China’s top manufacturers of facial recognition systems, was found to be tracking more than 2.5 million Chinese citizens in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, according to a report by state-run media Xinhua. The company has a huge database of people’s ID number, residential address, date of birth, recent photos, work unit, and location data for the past 24 hours.
As in Xinjiang, the Chinese regime has heavily suppressed the local population in Tibet after it invaded the area in 1950, restricting Tibetans’ religious and cultural customs while engaging in tight monitoring of the region.
Previously, The Epoch Times reported in a Nov. 10, 2015 article that the Chinese authorities had deployed a new surveillance system in Tibet. It uses advanced radars and unmanned aircraft to track people, integrating electro-optical devices, radars, communications equipment, command-and-control instruments, and image analysis technology. It is capable of watching the borders round the clock and in all weather.
Reuters similarly reported that an on-the-ground surveillance network was being installed to “watch the comings and goings of residents.” Chinese state-run media claimed the heightened security was aimed at managing the Tibetan area “without gaps, without blind spots, without blanks.”