Yitu Technology, based in Shanghai, China has developed and employed an artificial intelligence (A.I.) algorithm called Dragonfly Eye that uses facial recognition technology capable of identifying 2 billion people in seconds. Zhu Long, CEO of Yitu Technologies, told the South China Morning Post, “Our machines can very easily recognise you among at least 2 billion people in a matter of seconds, which would have been unbelievable just three years ago.”
Dragonfly Eye is presently used by 150 municipal public security systems and 20 provincial public security departments across the country of China.
Dragonfly Eye was initially employed on the Shanghai Metro in Shanghai, China, during January of this year. Local police authorities credit Dragonfly Eye with aiding in the arrest of 576 suspects on the Shanghai Metro in the first three months of using the facial recognition system. Zhu stated, “people waste time discussing whether it’s all hype or the real thing, but facial recognition already shows how real it can get.”
Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called Dragonfly Eye a “police cloud” that Chinese authorities are using to “violate privacy and target dissent.”
Yitu Technology admits that at least 320 million of the faces in the database belong to international visitors that have entered the country of China through its ports and airports. There is also suspicion that all of Hong Kong identification card holders are included in the Dragonfly Eye database, because Yitu Technology develops algorithm and navigation software for the government of Hong Kong.
Zhu stated of Dragonfly Eye, “Our algorithm is more accurate than customs officials at telling whether two images show the same person. It can even find a subject among millions of others using a 25- or 30-year-old image.”
Local authorities in areas across China where Dragonfly Eye is used all report a significant decrease in crime in those areas.
Zhu maintains that he has similar concerns as others about the future development and use of A.I.
“We all discuss A.I. as an opportunity for humanity to advance or as a threat to it. What I believe is that we will have to redefine what it is to be human. We will have to ask ourselves what the foundations of our species are. And for the answer, maybe we will have to watch three-year-old children, not experts. Because knowledge and skills can be replicated by large-scale computing, while young kids have already developed the basic things that make us human.”
Zhu has a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of California, Los Angeles and also was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Zhu returned to China in 2012 to found Yitu Technology.