- Recently, a message was circulated in WhatsApp groups, claiming facial recognition devices are installed on the pedestrian signal light poles in Hong Kong. The device is said to be used to penalize jaywalkers.
- The so-called “facial recognition device” has an appearance of black box, which is basically the same as the electronic audible traffic signals (eATS) installed on the street by the Transport Department, as shown in its official website.
- In response to our enquiry, Ms. Yeung Chi-kwan, the Transport Department’s Customer Service Officer, confirms that the device shown in the claim is a component of the eATS system, which provides indications for visually impaired persons on the prevailing pedestrian signals. The device does not have video recording or facial recognition functions, said Yeung.
- Therefore, the device is installed to provide assistance for visually impaired persons to cross the road rather than to penalize the jaywalkers. We rate the claim as FALSE.
In March 2021, a message was circulated on WhatsApp groups claiming facial recognition devices have been installed on streets in Hong Kong to punish the pedestrians disregarding traffic rules. The original source of the message is unknown.
The claim questions: Has the government installed facial recognition devices on the street to penalize jaywalkers?
A message from WhatsApp groups stated, “Facial recognition devices are rolled out! If you see such devices, please be careful! The camera in the device can detect pedestrians’ faces, and jaywalkers will be penalized.” The enclosed photo shows a device, resembling a black box, mounted under a pedestrian signal light in Hong Kong.
According to the introduction and illustration in the document “Electronic Audible Traffic Signals*Printed Version” retrieved from the official website of the Transport Department, the black box device in the attached photo has the same appearance of the audible unit of eATS.
We sent an inquiry to the Transport Department with regard to the WhatsApp message. In an email reply on Apr. 7, 2021, the Customer Service Officer of the Transport Department, Ms. Yeung Chi-kwan said, “The device shown in the claim is a component of eATS. eATS is a system providing indication to the visually impaired on prevailing pedestrian signals states at the crossings. The audible unit is mounted under the pedestrian signal light and can emit audible signals in different levels of frequency to indicate the states of traffic signals. These audible signals can assist visually impaired persons and ensure their safety at the road crossings.”
The Transport Department has confirmed the black box device shown in the claim is a component of eATS, which is to provide assistance to the visually impaired when crossing the roads and does not have any recording or facial recognition function. The device is definitely not installed to detect pedestrians’ faces and penalize jaywalkers. Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.
- The Transport Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Official Website
- The Transport Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, “Electronic Audible Traffic Signals*Printed Version”