Serbia’s Surveillance Cameras Can Recognize Faces, License Plates
Serbia has been working with the Chinese technology firm Huawei to implement a surveillance system across its capital city of Belgrade.
Officials are touting the effort as a way to fight crime and enforce traffic laws. Critics fear it will further erode privacy and civil liberties in the increasingly authoritarian country.
Serbian authorities say the system will automatically detect the faces of anyone within the camera’s range, letting it later identify suspected criminals as well as victims and witnesses.
Huawei also claims that the network can help governments expedite crime-solving. The “automatic license plate recognition system greatly assisted police by improving the efficiency of their investigations,” it argued in a 2018 case study. The study cites a 2014 incident where facial recognition technology helped Chinese authorities catch a Serbian fugitive.
Huawei has claimed that its Safe City network is in use in over 230 cities in more than 90 countries, although a Brookings report emphasizes that Chinese firms “have incentives to…exaggerate the popularity of their technology for marketing purposes.”A 2019 Center for Strategic and International Studies investigation found a slightly more modest 73 agreements across 52 countries.
In any case, Serbian ci
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