The Crosswalk Posts Have Eyes (update)

Just a few days after my last blog post about New Crosswalk Signals, More Surveillance in Shanghai, one of my friends spotted one of the new crosswalk displays doing its thing:


So what are we seeing here? Photos of a guy crossing the street illegally, with a close-up headshot (taken from the same video surveillance). The Chinese text 涉嫌违法 repeats several times, and means “suspected of breaking the law.” Note also that rather than using facial recognition and searching the guy’s face in the database, then showing his official ID photo, what we’re seeing is just a cropped headshot from the video footage. No official IDing of the “suspect.”

This is not to say that none of that is possible; it almost certainly is (and already happening all the time). It’s just that the “citizen-facing” display screens are still in a restrained testing mode. Until all the bugs are worked out, people aren’t going to be receiving automatic tickets for crossing the street illegally at crosswalks across Shanghai… yet.

But obviously, our faces are getting scanned even more often than before now, and with additional scans there’s additional data to improve the facial recognition accuracy.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I’m all for waiting for the light to change before crossing, but AI, facial recognition, is this all really necessary? Quite a few places and cultures have achieved non-jaywalking nirvana without this kind of surveillance. Contrast this with San Francisco, which has outlawed public facial recognition. I find it amazing that in Japan kids can still walk on their own to school and also take the subway on their own, and they stop at crosslights! I hardly see any cameras around there. Anyway, MadMax/Orwellian world is already upon us.

  2. I already see a few self-checkout kiosks that will let you use facial recognition to pay. I haven’t signed up for that yet, although I do or did once dream of not having to carry a cell-phone around. But some huge database with my face…kinda scary. Then again, my face and fingerprints already are scanned upon entry/exit to China…so actually, the database already exists…

  3. It clearly isn’t NECESSARY, and yet here we are… Seems like a convenient excuse for ramping up surveillance, but yeah, it’s pretty transparent.

    The database definitely exists. Our faces are being captured and scanned all day long. It’s only occasional projects like this which give us just a tiny bit of visibility into what can be done with that technology, or where it’s going.

  4. I was in Taiyuan a year ago and they were doing this, but the images on the screen were from the “offender’s” official ID card. Scary stuff.

  5. i wonder if they will ban masks . i mean people will start wearing dark glasses , hats and masks lol

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