"The Flow Of Each Person Can Be Clearly Seen" - Virus Brings China's Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows 

We noted Monday that economic paralysis brought about by the coronavirus had forced Chinese banks to offer billions of dollars in loans to domestic firms to help contain the virus. 

Some of the companies listed as potential candidates for funding had technology that would enable China's surveillance state to track infected people or those who were considered at risk. 

Reuters notes an incident where a camera with facial recognition technology tracked a Hangzhou man, who returned home from a business trip in Wenzhou, an area with high confirmed cases.  

The man had his license plate flagged and was ordered by authorities to stay home for two weeks. But on the 12th day of self-quarantine, he decided to take a drive, was detected by facial recognition cameras for disobeying the order. 

"I was a bit shocked by the ability and efficiency of the mass surveillance network. They can basically trace our movements with AI technology and big data at any time and any place," the man said.

The virus outbreak has allowed China to supercharge its surveillance state. New software is coming online that can monitor people in the streets and recognize if they have fevers, and or, if they're wearing masks. If anyone is flagged, authorities will immediately get a notification, and decide on the appropriate action from there.  

Mobile apps for smartphones have been developed to allow users to identify if infected people have been around them.

We mentioned Monday how billions of dollars are being plowed into technology to combat the virus. 

Telecoms have been tracking users’ locations during the outbreak. 

"In the era of big data and internet, the flow of each person can be clearly seen. So, we are different from the SARS time now," epidemiologist Li Lanjuan told China's state broadcaster CCTV last week. 

"With such new technologies, we should make full use of them to find the source of infection and contain the source of infection," Li said.

Facial recognition startup, Megvii, requested 100 million yuan ($14.32 million) from banks to develop new technology that would track people with fevers, called "AI temperature measurement system," which uses thermal cameras to measure body temperatures. 

Zhu Jiansheng of the China Academy of Railway Sciences told state news agency Xinhua that technology to fight the virus will help them find infected people or those at risk of being infected. 

"We will retrieve relevant information about the passenger, including the train number, carriage number, and information on passengers who were close to the person, such as people sitting three rows of seats before and after the person," Zhu said.

"We will extract the information and then provide it to relevant epidemic prevention departments," he said. 

China hasn’t only been cracking down on infected people. Last month, the surveillance state targeted people wearing pajamas in public.

While the use of facial recognition technology in security cameras remains taboo around the world, in China, it's widely accepted.

Of course, this kind of thing is all fine because China is using its surveillance state to fight a deadly virus, right?