As protests grow, the police leverage their technological advantage. Widespread surveillance cameras capture the crowds, and facial recognition software picks out individuals, cross-referencing databases to generate dossiers on protestors. Demonstrators counter by cutting down lamp posts that might conceal cameras. Across the country, 3,000 miles away, biometric systems monitor everyday people as they go about their lives. These tools enable police to control a population and detain suspects before they even commit a crime.
We are, of course, in China, where law enforcement authorities in Hong Kong have deployed high-tech surveillance systems to quash protests, and the Chinese government uses facial recognition and other technologies in Xinjiang to control and repress the Uighur minority population. The United States is not China when it comes to the surveillance of its people using biometric technologies like facial recognition—but that is not the result of any law or policy on the books today.