Serbia's Surveillance Cameras Can Recognize Faces, License Plates

Huawei’s Safe City security system is undergoing a massive expansion across Belgrade.


Serbia has been working with the Chinese technology firm Huawei to implement a surveillance system across its capital city of Belgrade.

Officials are touting the effort as a way to fight crime and enforce traffic laws. Critics fear it will further erode privacy and civil liberties in the increasingly authoritarian country.

The Safe City program, introduced in Belgrade in 2018, aims to install 1,000 high-definition cameras equipped with face and license plate recognition software. It's already installed a few hundred.

Serbian authorities say the system will automatically detect the faces of anyone within the camera's range, letting it later identify suspected criminals as well as victims and witnesses.

Huawei also claims that the network can help governments expedite crime-solving. The "automatic license plate recognition system greatly assisted police by improving the efficiency of their investigations," it argued in a 2018 case study. The study cites a 2014 incident where facial recognition technology helped Chinese authorities catch a Serbian fugitive.

Huawei has claimed that its Safe City network is in use in over 230 cities in more than 90 countries, although a Brookings report emphasizes that Chinese firms "have incentives to…exaggerate the popularity of their technology for marketing purposes."A 2019 Center for Strategic and International Studies investigation found a slightly more modest 73 agreements across 52 countries.

In any case, Serbian civil libertarians are not so optimistic about Safe City's potential.

"Implementing a system of mass biometric surveillance is a risk to a whole range of human rights such as the right to freedom of opinion and gathering, anti-discrimination, and most importantly the right to privacy and personal data protection," Danilo Krivokapić, director of the Serbian digital rights watchdog SHARE Foundation, tells Emerging Europe.

The Serbian government's work with Huawei comes at a time when the country is growing both more authoritarian and closer to China.

Balkan Insight recently argued that China has "replaced Russia" as Serbia's most prominent ally. The relationship has benefited Serbia with coronavirus aid, foreign investment, and security cooperation

Freedom House's 2020 "Nations in Transit" report found that democratic backsliding in Serbia was so severe that it could "no longer be categorized" as a democracy. Instead the group considers the Balkan state a hybrid regime—a form of government defined by political economist Robert Wintrobe as "neither a democracy nor a dictatorship but [combining] elements of both."

While Huawei's smart cameras are unlikely to line the streets of D.C. anytime soon, the proliferation of facial recognition technology has drawn scrutiny in the U.S., too. Its widespread adoption among authoritarian states will only amplify civil rights advocates' concerns.

NEXT: Joe Biden Said He Would Scrap Trump's China Tariffs. Or Did He?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Good to know masks will soon be banned again.

    1. Staying in your home solves both your COVID problem and your fear of being surveilled!

      1. Unless you have an Alexa. Alexa has been known to spread COVID.

        1. Yep; she’s a real disease spreading tramp all right.

          1. Who is this Alexa you speak of and does anyone have her number?

            1. Make $6,000-$8,000 A Month Online With No Skills Required.WQa Be Your Own Boss And for more info visit any tab this site Thanks a lot…………► Cash Mony System

    2. No; they will become state issued with a bar code on the front, keyed into your national identity card and the date, to assure a fresh mask is used each day. That way, they cam more easily transition to assigning you your official shopping day when you are allowed out to go only to the closet state approved grocery store to pick up the assigned healthy foods.
      For the children.

      1. Oh, yeah, I forgot the part where there will be a small fee for each mask to cover the cost of distribution and funding the national contact tracing force of ex-school teachers.

    3. Getting paid every month easily more than $15k just by doing simple job online. Last month i have exactly received $16839 from this online job just by giving this 2 hrs a day online. Now everybody on this earth can get this job and start earning more cash online just by follow instructions here……..for more info visit any tab this site Thanks a lotCopy Here………>>Check For Full Details

  2. “The study cites a 2014 incident where facial recognition technology helped Chinese authorities catch a Serbian fugitive.”

    So one capture in almost six years is a good enough reason to punt freedom completely to Communist China?

    1. Did they catch him – in Hong Kong? Why did Chinese authorities nab the fugitive instead of Serbian authorities? It sounds like the Chinese are monitoring the surveillance cameras installed anywhere in the world. Purely for use by the technical support desk, of course

      1. And training, General; don’t forget training.

        1. Training not only for customers, but also additional training sets to improve the facial recognition software. Win win

  3. Making Cash more than $15k to $18k consistently just by doing basic online work. I have gotten $18376 a month ago just by working on the web. Its a simple and basic occupation to do from home and its profit are greatly improved than customary office work. Each individual can join this activity now just by pursue this link……..go to this site home media tech tab for more detail support your hear Here══════❥❥❥❥Go to link.

  4. Biden will find an excuse to go to war with them again.

    1. Fortunately, he will forget about it before he can issue any attack orders – – – – – –

    2. “Them” who? The Chinese, the Serbians, the surveillance cameras, or the Huaweians? (He still hasn’t forgiven them for that whole Pearl Harbor thing.)

  5. Bad in Serbia, good in London? Little bit of a double standard there.

  6. my many plans to visit Serbia now in question.

  7. “While Huawei’s smart cameras are unlikely to line the streets of D.C. anytime soon, the Amazon Ring is just around the corner and will be on every corner and door.”

  8. job opportunity for everyone! Work from comfort of your home, on your computer And you cAn work with your own working hours. You cAn work this job As A pArt time or As A full time job. You cAn eArn from 65$ An hour to 1000$ A dAy! There is no limitAtions, it All depends from you And how much you wAnt to eArn eAch dAy…..More detail here.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.