June 29, 2022

The South Korean government is planning to use artificial intelligence, facial recognition and thousands of CCTV cameras in a pilot project to track the movement of people infected with the coronavirus. While such a move comes despite concerns about the invasion of privacy.

About the business plan from Bucheon city –

• The upcoming project funded by the government is due to become operational in January.
• The city plans to build a system that uses an AI algorithm and facial recognition technology to analyse footage of a COVID-19 infected person that will be gathered by more than 10,820 CCTV cameras.
• The system will track an infected person’s movements, for instance, if anyone they had close contact with, or whether such person was/were wearing a mask.
• It is expected to reduce the strain on overworked tracing teams for the same.
• The system is also designed to overcome tracing teams need to rely heavily on the testimony of COVID-19 patients. There have been records of testimonies about their activities and whereabouts not to be always truthful.
• The system can simultaneously track up to ten people in five to ten minutes, cutting the time spent on manual work that takes around half an hour to one hour to trace one person.
• The pilot plan requires one public health centre and a team of about ten staff to use the AI-powered recognition system.

The report has been submitted to the Ministry of Science and ICT (Information and Communications Technology).

The country is already however known to use an aggressive and high-tech contact tracing system that checks into credit card records, cellphone location data and CCTV footage, among other personal information.

However, it still relies on a large number of epidemiological investigators, who often have to work 24-hour shifts, frenziedly tracing and contacting potential coronavirus cases.

Hence, Bucheon mayor Jang Deog-cheon in bidding for national funding for the pilot project in late 2020 argued that such a system would make tracing more accurate and faster.

Bucheon city official reported that the Ministry of Science and ICT they have provided them 1.6 billion won ($1.36 million) and from it they have injected 500 million won into the current project of building the system.