Plans for national expansion . . .
Reuters released an exclusive report on Sunday revealing how Myanmar’s junta government is installing Chinese-built facial recognition cameras throughout the country. The military government claims that the cameras will help maintain security and preserve civil peace. Before the February 2021 coup, the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is commonly known, had begun installing CCTV surveillance systems in the cities of Naypyidaw, Yangon, Mandalay, and Sittwe. The junta began expanding the installations to other cities post-coup. According to Reuters, the military has plans to put cameras in all 14 states and divisions in the country. The cameras are sourced from Chinese tech conglomerates Huawei, Dahua, and Hikvision.
Widespread surveillance and ‘digital dictatorship’ . . .
As the junta gains more digital control, the cameras make it easier to track the movements of individuals and pose potential security threats to democracy activists and resistance groups. Human Rights Watch said that the cameras can be used to “figure out connections between activists, identify safe houses and other gathering spots, and recognize and intercept cars and motorcycles used by activists.” In addition to facial recognition cameras, the junta has restricted access to and censored online content. It has also reportedly installed spyware on telecom service and internet providers to further monitor and combat online “traitors.”
Facial recognition cameras, everywhere . . .
Myanmar is not alone in its use of facial recognition cameras. Last year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police admitted using the U.S.-based software Clearview AI. Clearview came under fire in 2020 after an investigation found that its software had extracted more than three billion photos from social media platforms and turned them into a database. That database was later used by 600 law enforcement agencies in countries including Canada, posing serious threats to and violations of privacy. Countries globally are working out the ethics of citizen surveillance. Meanwhile, massive Chinese investment in surveillance products has made it easier for interested governments, like in Myanmar, to obtain the necessary tech to monitor their citizens.
- Centre for Strategic and International Studies: Months after coup, Myanmar accelerates toward surveillance state
- The Diplomat: Myanmar Expanding Use of Chinese-Made Facial Recognition Systems: Report
- Reuters: Exclusive: Myanmar's junta rolls out Chinese camera surveillance systems in more cities