Even though it seems that we are being bombarded with bad news every day, there is some good news for Christians in China – face masks might be a huge blessing in disguise. Another way to say it might be to say that masks are a masked blessing.
In 2018, China announced Sky Net: a facial recognition system that the official news outlet bragged was “a facial recognition system that can scan China’s population of about 1.4 billion people in a second.” Since 2018, China has been in hyperdrive to install cameras with facial recognition capabilities everywhere, creating what has been called the “most intense government surveillance in the world.”
China is expected to have more than half a billion cameras by the end of 2021, which works out at one camera for every three people in the nation.
Christians are concerned about the cameras with AI facial recognition because they can be easily used to track the movement of Christians, pastors, and mission leaders. The cameras can be used to monitor the activities of prominent Christian leaders and intimidate any believer who would attempt to meet with them.
However, the entire system was built and deployed prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Though the coronavirus has brought many challenges to the church in China, it has also brought about a very timely blessing in disguise: the mask.
Because of the virus, the mask is now required in all public places and has allowed a new sense, at least on some level, of anonymity again.
Just when the government had a new answer on how to carefully track every citizen in the nation, invested billions of dollars into an AI surveillance program, and installed more cameras than any other country in the world – this monkey wrench comes along and creates a new back door for believers.
The US government, who also has an extensive network of cameras with facial recognition technology, is piloting facial recognition technologies that can see through face masks with a “promising” level of accuracy, but that technology is expensive and not widely used for now. It is also not clear if this advanced technology can be retrofitted for the millions of cameras that China has already installed.
Facial recognition software is still being used at borders and check points where people are required to lower their mask and identify themselves to the camera, but there seems to be some reprieve – at least for now.
Back to Jerusalem works together with the underground house church in China to share the Gospel inside of China, as well as in nations throughout the 10/40 Window. To learn more about how to join together with the vision of the underground house church of China, click here.