China is building a massive camera surveillance network. The country calls it “the world’s biggest camera surveillance network.” It has already installed 170 million CCTV cameras across the country and will install an additional 400 million cameras over the next three years. The system seems to be working fine as it was able to locate a BBC reporter in just seven minutes.


The BBC’s John Sudworth was given rare access to one of the hi-tech police control rooms from where this surveillance system is controlled. Many of the cameras that make up this system feature artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology.

Some of the cameras can read faces while others can estimate age, gender, and ethnicity. Every face can be matched with an ID card, with the person’s card, and even with their relatives. That’s the depth of information that this system has access to.

The reporter’s image was flagged in the system as part of this exercise and it took the system only seven minutes to locate him. When a face is recognized by the system, an alarm is raised in the control room and the authorities are dispatched to take the person into custody.

The full video of this chase set up is available on the BBC’s website. It shows how the operators were able to leverage the CCTV surveillance network to locate the reporter in just seven minutes.

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