CHINESE SCHOOLS USE “SMART” UNIFORMS TO TRACK STUDENTS

 

THE FIGHT AGAINST TRUANCY IN CHINESE SCHOOLS

The world’s AI superpower is at it again. This time they are using AI technology to gain an upper hand in the fight against truancy. Many Chinese schools were fed up with students leaving school without permission or skipping class. So they decided to do the only thing they believed would work. They created so called “smart” uniforms to keep students in line. The Chinese media claims that this is a good way to boost school attendance.

Supporters point to the ease by which students are kept from breaking the rules to justify the use of these uniforms. Others point out the privacy concerns because the schools admit that they are able to track these students outside of school hours because the chips operate 24/7. It looks like we have another slippery slope on our hands.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The Guizhou Guanyu Technology Company designed the chips that are placed inside the shoulders of the uniforms. These chips are paired with facial recognition devices that are installed on the doors, throughout the outside perimeter, and inside the school. When the student enters the school pictures and video of them are taken and linked up to the chips. The technology even has ways of detecting when children attempt to swap uniforms. That is how sophisticated facial recognition tech is over in China.

When students attempt to leave without permission or go where they are not supposed, to alarms are set off alerting school officials. Parents can also view pictures of their children and be alerted to any alarms via an app, that is connected to the system.

Yuan Bichang, the technology company’s project manager, told the Global Times that the chips can survive about 500 washes and water temperatures up to about 300 degrees. They are also nearly indestructible and are designed this way so that younger students don’t destroy them while engaging in horseplay.

Further details of how this system works are for the moment unclear. This is because it is mostly Chinese news outlets reporting on this and it seems, that they always leave out important details surrounding their new surveillance technologies. One might wonder why this is the case.

PRIVACY CONCERNS

As pointed out earlier, the schools retain the ability to track students even outside of school hours, because the chips operate 24/7. Lin Zongwu told the Global Times “We choose not to check the accurate location of students after school, but when the student is missing and skipping classes, the uniforms help locate them.” That is a rather interesting thing to say given all the privacy concerns that have been associated with this technology lately. The point is regardless of what they say we have no idea what school officials can do with this kind of capabilities.

Some of the schools using these uniforms justify it by saying that they can send notifications about homework through an app connected to the chips. However, the tracking chips are hardly necessary for something like that. Other schools claim they are just trying to combat truancy while others boldly claim that the uniforms will increase school attendance. All of these reasons are very weak justifications for violating the privacy of students without actually addressing the problem of truancy or the issue of low school attendance.

Chinese classroom cameras

One of many cameras in Chinese classrooms.

WEAK JUSTIFICATIONS

It isn’t even clear whether these uniforms are making a difference in school attendance. One school claims that it has increased their overall attendance, but “not by a lot.” Other schools don’t even bother with poor attempts to justify their use, because winning the fight against truancy is not really the reason behind the chipped uniforms. When we look at various kinds of AI technology coming out of China, their reasons for tracking students with chips or using facial recognition to spy on their citizens clearly come from an unethical point of view.

People wonder, whether this kind of surveillance technology will extend to the rest of the adult population. Some say no and point out the fact that minor children under the age of 18 need to be controlled to ensure they don’t misbehave and there’s no reason to extend that to adults. However, others believe that if the Chinese government can justify it with some arbitrary reason associated with national security then every citizen will end up wearing tracking chips one day. What is your take on all of this? Leave your comments down below.

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