China Pharmaceutical University student behavioural monitoring

Occurred: September 2019

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Photographs showing students at China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing being monitored and analysed triggered concerns that Chinese AI company Megvii was jeopardising student privacy and freedom of movement.

According to the South China Morning Press, the university was using the facial recognition and emotion recognition system at the university gate, entrances to the dormitory building, library, lab, and two classrooms so that managers can 'track their students.'

'Besides attendance, the system installed in the classroom can provide surveillance of the students' learning, such as whether they are listening to the lectures, how many times they raise their heads, and whether they are playing on their phones or falling asleep,' Xu Jianzhen, director of the university's library and information centre said.

The furore prompted the Chinese government to say it would 'curb and regulate' the use of facial recognition technology and other technologies in schools. 

Megvii responded by saying the photo was a pilot and that it is providing greater campus safety while helping school administrators improve efficiency. It went on to say that it 'always insisted on technology for good, so that artificial intelligence can benefit everyone.'

Megvii has also been discovered filing patents for systems capable of recognising Uyghurs.

Operator: China Pharmaceutical University
Developer: Megvii 

Country: China

Sector: Education

Purpose: Assess student attentiveness, strengthen campus safety, improve attendance 

Technology: Facial recognition; Emotion recognition; Deep learning; Neural network; Machine learning
Issue: Privacy; Surveillance

Transparency: Governance; Marketing; Privacy