Seoul – South Korea will soon launch a pilot project using artificial intelligence, facial recognition and thousands of CCTV cameras to track the movements of people infected with coronavirus, despite concerns about privacy attacks.
The nationally funded project in Bucheon, one of the most populous cities in the country on the outskirts of Seoul, will be launched in January, a city official said.
The program uses AI algorithms and face recognition technology to analyze images collected by more than 10,820 CCTV cameras and track the movements of an infected person, anyone close to them, and wearing a mask, according to a 110-page business plan. the city was sent to the Minister of Science and ICT (Information and Communication Technology), and handed over to Reuters by a parliamentary speaker criticizing the project.
Governments around the world have turned to new technologies and expanded their legal capabilities to try to stem the tide of COVID-19 infection. China, Russia, India, Poland and Japan as well as a few U.S. states are in the process of issuing or at least examining the COVID-19 patient monitoring programs, according to a March report from Columbia Law School in New York. .
A Bucheon official said the program should reduce the inconvenience to overcrowded tracking teams in a city with a population of over 800,000, and help use teams more effectively and efficiently.
South Korea already has an aggressive, high-profile contact tracking system that favors credit card records, mobile location data and CCTV footage, among other personal information.
However, it still relies on a large number of epidemic investigators, who usually work 24-hour shifts, tracking and contacting potential cases of coronavirus.
In bid for national funding for a pilot project in late 2020, Bucheon mayor Jang Deog-cheon argued that such a plan would make tracking faster.
“Sometimes it takes hours to analyze a single CCTV image. Using visual technology will help that analysis in an instant, ”he said on Twitter.
The program is also designed to overcome the fact that follow-up teams should rely heavily on the evidence of COVID-19 patients, who are not always truthful about their activities and whereabouts, the program said.
The Department of Science and ICT said it had no plans to expand the project at national level. He said the aim of the program was to digitize some of the handicrafts to be pursued by current seekers.
The Bucheon system can simultaneously track 10 people in five to ten minutes, reducing the time spent on manual labor, which takes about half an hour to an hour, to track one person, the program said.
The screening process requires a team of about 10 staff members at one public health facility to use a powerful AI monitoring system, the official said.
Bucheon received 1.6 billion won ($ 1.36 million) from the Department of Science and ICT and contributed $ 500 million to the city budget for the project, a Bucheon official said.
Despite widespread public support for existing offensive and tracking systems, human rights lawyers and other South Korean lawmakers have expressed concern that the government will retain and use that information beyond the scope of the epidemic.
“The government’s plan to become Big Brother because of COVID is a neo-totalitarian ideology,” said Park Dae-chul, a spokesman for the opposition People Power Party.
“It is absolutely wrong to monitor and control the public through CCTV using taxpayers’ money without public consent,” said Park, who provided the city plan for Reuters.
A Bucheon official said there were no concerns about privacy because the system puts a mosaic on the face of anyone who is not a subject.
“There is no privacy issue here as the system follows a certified patient based on the Infectious Diseases Control and Prevention Act,” the official said. “Affected trackers adhere to that rule so there is no risk of data loss or encryption.”
The rules say patients must give their consent for the use of facial recognition, but even if they do not agree, the system can still track them using their silhouette and clothing, the official said.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has stated that the use of such technology is legal in nature within the scope of its control and control.
Powerful AI facial sweeping programs come as the country tries other uses of controversial technology, from detecting child abuse in child care facilities to providing police protection.