I guess it does both and although security might be improved it sure affects the privacy a lot. Just a few days ago I was thinking about such surveillance cameras and although I am definitely sure that they will affect a lot our privacy they will also help in finding criminals. Around my house a few nights ago two cars have had their windows broken on the right side and were "checked" for money and other valuable possessions.
Since the thieves didn't found anything to steal all they left was a lot of mess and a pretty big expense for the owners of the cars. Nowadays cars don't have such easy to steal cd players like years ago and people don't keep money either in their cars. However such criminals still try their luck and break into cars for such purposes. The police has had no recording whatsoever of who did that, nobody saw or heard anything and there aren't too many suspects so who's to blame?
If there were such cameras mounted in my country also and especially in my hometown those thieves would probably be behind bars now or at least they wouldn't try to do such things because they know what are the consequences. For such scenarios I think that the Chinese cameras really come in hand but I don't think that the Chinese government hasn't take into account on spying on its population also when it installed such cameras. I've read a few months ago about the Chinese surveillance system and I also know that the government wishes also to create some profiles to its citizens and restrict their freedom a lot so its not all being created only for the protection of the citizens.
It might sound as it is this way but there is probably more to it. However if you don't abide the law you don't have what to worry about but you might also say good by to privacy if you happen to live in such a country like China. There's always to sides of the coin.
Suzhou has a very sophisticated CCTV system at SIP, the industrial and financial zone of the city, and it is one of the first cities to implement face recognition as a pilot program. Basically in every block there are cameras installed. I imagine that I appear in the cameras hundreds of times a day.
Does security improve? Definitely. I can give three examples, two personal ones and one that came out in the news.
Once I had an altercation with a person who stopped his car on the bike path, blocking it almost completely. I tried to pass by one side, but suddenly the person accelerated and almost hit me. The driver got off enraged and did not give me time to exchange words with him because he took me by the neck, he lifted me from my electric motorcycle and threw me to the ground. When he realized that he was a foreigner (he wore glasses, and with them many times he passed as a Chinese) he climbed into the car and left. I went to put one complaint at the police station. They told me to go see the cameras in the area where the incident happened and try to identify the person. Unfortunately, everything happened in a blind spot in the camera, so I could not identify it. But I noticed that the quality of the cameras is excellent, you could read the newspaper of a person walking down the street! At that time I would have wished they had better cameras where the fight occurred (it is the oldest area of SIP, where the cameras are more "obsolete").
A friend had a crash on the road and the other driver escaped. He called the police to report the crash. The police asked him to give information on the time and height of the road in which it occurred. They asked him to raise his hand to identify him with the camera. They reviewed the video and after an hour had already found the fugitive.
For a time there was a series of news of criminals who were found in concerts with tens of thousands of people thanks to facial recognition.
Facial recognition seems excellent to me, because it helps to find criminals quickly if crimes happen on the public highway. I can say that Suzhou, and many cities in China are much safer than the more developed cities of America or Europe. Even from the point of view of women, they are not afraid to walk at two in the morning from the bar to the house, nor do they feel uncomfortable when taking the transport. I can not say the same for my friends who live in Paris or Barcelona.
I have never felt that I lose my privacy. At the end of the day, I am in public, the cameras see the same thing that ordinary people can see. So if I do not do anything in public that can embarrass me in front of other people (like nibbling my nose, urinating on public roads, etc.), I do not care that the big brother is watching me (After all I'm not the most interesting person in the world).
It will do precious little to improve security. Technically, it is not a breach of anybody's privacy because there is no privacy in public spaces. But it's yet another example of the kind of surveillance state China is. Mass surveillance is not the sole province of dictatorships like China. Democratic states in the West also engage in mass surveillance. There are security cameras everywhere in Western cities. Also, despite the fact that mass surveillance of the domestic population is restricted by law, the Five Eyes agreement, parties to which the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK are, allows the governments to circumvent the laws by spying on each other's citizens.
To me it is not so much an issue of privacy but what rights does one have in the community as identified as an individual. For example with police profiling by humans we try to prevent prejudice from prevailing as to police selecting someone to harass. There are really key elements of identity that will come up. If public information is entirely anonymous then important public health information is lost. What about someone whose health suddenly goes badly when time is of the essence? Or more likely the vast reservoir of public information about health is simply not used, losing knowledge about who contacts who in an epidemic? Let's take live video via Google Glasses, one accumulates quite a bit of data just traveling through the public place. Is that not an important feature of the work life of the person? Every person in some sense updates the city or human habitat in real time. They further define human access to an environment. These public databases are incredibly important not just in known ways but as they are collected add to the future structure of society because one has this from a hundred years ago, and so on. I think your article just skims the surface of what is needed. First the rights of people as publicly known need to be established, secondly this public information belongs to the public not private corporations, thirdly, the real world is redefined this way, so that bigotry and prejudice can be addressed in ways that are not possible now. Corporate use of public information like this needs to be regulated and very strong laws formed to stop identity carte blanche being used for profit. Identity belongs to the public and individual not to corporations.
We have this in the United States as well. Its called facefirst and is utilized by both our government, our militarized police, and our corporate masters. We use it to sell more products to consumers and create more criminals out of our citizens. It is used for corporate and government protection but doesn't help normal citizens. https://www.facefirst.com