In an interview with Reuters, Singapore’s Changi Airport Group (CAG) confirmed that they will be using a facial recognition software to track the location of every passenger’s movement in the airport. The software is believed to be provided by China’s government-linked technology firm Yitu, which recently in January 2018 set up a Singapore office at Asia Square tower with 50-60 researchers.
The chief information officer of the government-owned airport manager, CAG, denied the cameras will be used to monitor individuals, and claimed that the facial recognition system is used to help track “lost passengers” who are late for their flights:
“The airport’s experiments are not from a “big brother” perspective but solve real problems. We have lots of reports of lost passengers…so one possible use case we can think of is, we need to detect and find people who are on the flight. Of course, with permission from the airlines. We have tested technology that could allow for this, and are working with various businesses, adding that they should have some capability to do this in a year’s time.”
In an earlier press release by the Prime Minister’s technology office, GovTech, the government is also implementing the facial recognition system island-wide through the use of cameras on street lamp posts.
The monitoring system will track not only individuals, but also detect gathering of crowds:
“Government agencies can increase their situational awareness, detect potential problems and respond quickly to incidents, such as unruly crowds, train breakdowns or traffic congestion… The trial aims to assess how we can make use of existing public infrastructure such as lamp posts to fit, connect and power various kinds of sensors that can help us improve the living environment. GovTech will draw lessons and insights from the trial before deciding on plans to scale up implementation.”
In Singapore, it is illegal for more than two person to gather at a public area without a police permit. A new law was passed in Parliament earlier in March 2018 stating that the Singapore Police will have clearance to shoot at protesters.
Alongside China’s government-linked Ali Baba group, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund company Temasek Holdings, whose CEO is the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, poured US$600 million into a China’s facial recognition technology company, Sensetime. The company will participate in the billion-dollar roll-out of “Lamppost-as-a-Platform” of nation-wide surveillance.
The new laws and technology spending are specifically aimed at nipping protests in the bud. There has been growing resentment on the ground over legalised corruptions, income inequality, cost of living and a number of government policies. There Singapore government is worried that a second spontaneous riot will break out following the 2013 Little India’s incident.