Can you imagine what John Lennon would have thought about a museum in his Liverpool home-town installing facial recognition technology to invade the privacy of visitors, in an act of big-brother surveillance? Maybe his son can write a song about that? Yet for sure that’s what has happened according to a report by the UK campaigners Big Brother Watch, and what lies behind the decision is a cause for real concern to anyone valuing human rights and the intrusion of the state upon civil and personal liberties.
The World Museum has admitted that such technology was operated, and in a curious twist stated that the decision to extract the bio-metric data of its visitors was taken during an exhibition on China’s ‘terracotta warriors’.
It seems the move was suggested by the local cops! Now what on this good earth would they be so concerned about? Details are scarce, a tight lid has been closed which makes us wonder what was going down behind the scenes. What facts are known show that several Chinese government and academic institutions were closely involved with facilitating the exhibition. That it was taking placed in England, for the first time outside off of London suggests that UK authorities such as the Foreign Office would have a key role.
While in the background would be lurking security agencies like MI5. Such monitoring and involvement would have the goal of ensuring matters proceeded without incident or controversy. After all like China’s ‘Panda Diplomacy’ these artifacts are used by the Chinese regime as soft propaganda, exhorting the cultural marvels of an ancient past, for very present political purposes.
Given the appeasement which runs through UK policy towards China there would have been an acute sensitivity surrounding the exhibition, the question is who requested that face-scanners be part of security measures? From what we know Britain has some legal restrictions and protocols on the deployment and operation of such technology, on what basis then did the cops press the museum to employ such an intrusion of personal privacy?
Did they have confirmed intelligence of a planned protest or criminal action? If so surely an increased police presence would have been an appropriate measure? Was this the result of a confidential accord reached between the UK and Chinese government? Meanwhile we should of course give thought to the use of the bio-metric data which was taken from all those who visited this exhibition. Who had responsibility for it? Was it shared with any other agencies, including the Chinese authorities? Just where is that digital record now?
Whatever dirty politics or anxiety saturated diplomacy may be behind this gross violation of citizens right to privacy, one fact remains the Chinese regime and its technological attack dog, Huwawei have implemented the world’s most oppressive facial-recognition systems against the people of China and indeed in occupied lands such as Tibet and East Turkistan.
That a supposed liberal democracy like the UK has authorized such surveillance against its own people, in probable collaboration with and appeasement of China’s totalitarian regime is a deeply disturbing development. One that should be thoroughly exposed and challenged!