South Korea to use facial recognition to track Covid-19 patients

Vietnam will study the reopening of commercial routes between Vietnam and Japan, South Korea. Photo: Vietnam Airlines. Photo: Hanoi Times. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SEOUL, Dec 13, 2021, Reuters. South Korea will soon roll out a pilot project to use artificial intelligence (AI), facial recognition and thousands of closed-circuit video cameras to track the movement of people infected with the coronavirus, despite concerns about the invasion of privacy, Al Jazeera reported.

The nationally-funded project in Bucheon, one of the country’s most densely populated cities on the outskirts of Seoul, is due to become operational in January, a city official told the Reuters news agency.

The system uses AI algorithms and facial recognition technology to analyse footage gathered by more than 10,820 security cameras and track an infected person’s movements, anyone they had close contact with, and whether they were wearing a mask, according to a 110-page business plan from the city submitted to the Ministry of Science and ICT (Information and Communications Technology), and provided to Reuters by a parliamentary legislator critical of the project.

Governments worldwide have turned to new technologies and expanded legal powers to try to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections. China, Russia, India, Poland and Japan as well as several US states are among the governments to have rolled out or at least experimented with facial recognition systems for tracking COVID-19 patients, according to a March report by the Columbia Law School in New York.

The Bucheon official said the system should reduce the strain on overworked tracing teams in a city with a population of more than 800,000 people, and help use the teams more efficiently and accurately.

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