Video surveillance was first introduced in mass transit systems, specifically subway and railroad stations, in the 1960s. The crudeness of the technology would cause many to laugh today, when a simple cell phone has a better camera than a costly, bulky video camera half a century ago. However, despite the crude technology used in those days, I remember actually reading about privacy concerns associated with the spreading of video surveillance: even at a time when you could barely make out the gender of a person being videotaped, there were those who were not happy with the prospect of being videotaped as you traveled through Trafalgar Square in London or Grand Central in New York.
The Metropolitan Police have been trialling the use of facial recognition in different parts of London, using cameras to scan passers-by to find matches on watch lists. South Wales Police have used similar technology in more than a dozen trials. Some privacy campaigners say there is no UK legislation regarding facial recognition and it is being used without regulation. The Home Office has previously said facial recognition can be an "invaluable tool" in fighting crime.
In the video attached to the story, a group of police officers standing in the street right next to where the cameras are mounted, stop a man who does not want his face filmed. They forcefully take his picture and fine him 90 pounds sterling for trying to conceal his face.
The problem with the “nothing to hide” argument is: we’ve all got plenty to hide. Just today, did you pick your nose? Change clothes? Have sex? Take a shower? Go to the bathroom? Sing off-key in the car on the way to work? Or, maybe you sent an email or text message, a racy photo on Snapchat, or said something inflammatory about your boss. I bet, if pressed, you’d prefer that most, if not all, of these actions remained private. And that’s okay. Privacy is a key part of all our lives. But now that our lives are drifting into the online space, and more with each passing year, why the disconnect between offline and online privacy? The former is desired and expected, while the latter is lauded as wrong and sometimes even criminal. Separating the desire for privacy from the desire to do something illegal is where it all starts. Too often the two are interwoven into a blanket statement that all those who desire privacy online are doing so out of the necessity to hide nefarious actions. Arguing that only criminals desire privacy is a dangerous thought, as it’s suggesting that we are all worthy of suspicion. In the courts, we’re innocent until proven guilty. Online, it’s quite the opposite.
In China, government agencies and private companies are collecting enormous amounts of data about e.g. an individual’s finances, social media activities, credit history, health records, online purchases, tax payments, legal matters, and people you associate with in, addition to images gathered from China’s 200 million surveillance cameras and facial recognition software. Data that indicates non-compliance with legally prescribed social and economic obligations and contractual commitments are flagged up and aggregated on a government-wide level to determine the trustworthiness of companies and individuals. Such a trustworthiness score can fluctuate based on actions—going up for good deeds such as donating to charity and can go down for negative actions such as getting a speeding ticket.
If an individual has a lower social credit score, they might find their ability to purchase what they want such as high-quality goods or a new home to be restricted. They might also be prohibited from buying airline and train tickets or renting an apartment. Some people with low social credit scores can expect to be blocked from dating sites and not be able to enroll their children in a school of their choice.