News FocusBiometrics

China's Sharp Focus on Biometrics

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Science  21 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6101, pp. 1448-1449
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6101.1448

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Biometrics—a field that grew out of fingerprinting to encompass emerging areas like gait and heartbeat recognition—is in its heyday in China. A large research force, generous government support, and advances in the algorithm speeds that enable biometric applications have pushed innovation in areas like intelligent surveillance and infrared face recognition. The leading Chinese image-processing and machine-learning labs now compete with the top institutions in the United States. Chinese biometric applications are being put to use for security in areas such as banking and sporting events. But critics worry that concerns about an Orwellian state—often overblown in the past—are finally well-founded. They fear that the new technologies will help China's one-party state clamp down on dissent and monitor political opponents.