Armenian government in Smart City talks with Huawei amidst concern over civil rights
The Armenian government is in discussions with Huawei to move forward with an agreement to provide smart city technology that the company reached with the previous government, which was toppled by street protests in spring 2018, Eurasianet reports.
The agreement covers the implementation of surveillance and identification systems in the Armenian city of Yerevan. Adrian Shahbaz, research director for technology and democracy for Washington, D.C. based think tank Freedom House says the use of thousands of cameras with facial recognition and license plate-reading technology gives authorities awesome power to control societies.
Eurasianet reports an increasingly cozy relationship between China and Armenia, which includes the construction of a new embassy which will be China’s second-largest in the former Soviet Union, and a school teaching hundreds of children in Yerevan. A former manager at Huawei’s Armenian office told Eurasianet that discussions with Armenia’s government did not touch on privacy issues, saying “nobody cared.”
Huawei says it has 160 cities among customers of its smart city technology, including Singapore and cities in Saudi Arabia and Germany. Governments in the U.S. and Czech Republic have blocked Huawei from public contracts, and Australia and New Zealand have moved to limit their use.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg has identified a number of Chinese companies, including Huawei, as participants in Communist Party surveillance initiatives that erode civil liberties, including several companies that provide biometrics and related technologies.
Hikvision and Dahua, both of which are banned from U.S. government contracts, are noted as “Big Brother Billionaires” for their facial recognition contracts, along with camera maker Tiandy, which supplies the infamous name-and-shame system for jaywalkers, and infrared and thermal imaging company Wuhan Guide Infrared.
Tech giants Alibaba, Tencent, Weibo, Baidu, and drone maker DJI are singled out, along with Ping An Insurance, which launched a biometric cloud service for insurance companies through its OneConnect subsidiary in 2017 that has since moved into the financial sector in other countries.
Facial recognition technology providers SenseTime, Cloudwalk, YITU, Megvii, SenseNets and Intellifusion are identified as participants in China’s high-tech surveillance state, as are gait recognition provider Watrix and voice recognition provider iFlytek.
Smart city projects are expected to be a major driver in the global facial recognition market’s growth to nearly $15 billion annually by 2026.