Hong Kong Protesters Use Laser to Blind Police, Facial Recognition Software

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Posted: Aug 01, 2019 5:00 PM

In China, Big Brother is always watching. That's why protesters in Hong Kong are finding new ways to blind his eyes.

The advent of facial recognition software and other high tech surveillance hardware has created a sprawling surveillance apparatus in China, where CCTV cameras can spot one criminal amongst 60,000 attendees of a crowded music concert.

Hong Kong does have stringent privacy protocols that bar the aggressive use of facial recognition software, but at a time when trust for the police is at an all-time low following numerous incidents of police violence and bias, many Hongkongers suspect intrusive surveillance technologies used in the mainland is increasingly deployed in their city-state to silence dissent.

In a semi-democratic city-state embedded in a country where anonymity is far from guaranteed, protesters are forced to find new ways to protect their identities and avoid state retribution. Hongkongers wear masks, goggles, and helmets not just for protection, but also to anonymize themselves from officers and computer software that might be tracking them. Umbrellas served a similar purpose, protecting fellow protesters nearby from debris, projectile, and the prying eye alike.

But sometimes, protesters take a more proactive approach to disrupt the surveillance apparatus directed at them. In one case, protesters shined green lasers into a police line to disrupt the face recognition software that might identify those participating in the anti-government demonstration, according to freelance journalist Alessandra Bocchi.

The Washington Post reported that protesters have used lasers since the early days of the protest to blind the authorities but their use has become increasingly prevalent over time as the police crackdown intensified.

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The police, for their part, are responding in kind. In addition to the litany of weapons used to contain protests and single out particularly unruly dissidents, the laser is seeing increased used by Hong Kong's police to identify and confuse protesters, The Post reported.