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Megvii commits to guard against weaponization of facial recognition technology

As controversial debates and protests against the ethical use of facial recognition technology in daily operations increase around the world, Chinese facial recognition startup Megvii Technology is not only preparing for public listing with the Hong Kong stock exchange, but has made a public commitment to fight off the weaponization of AI in mass surveillance.

According to the filing submitted to the Hong Kong stock exchange, the committee will focus on integrity and privacy protection, among others. The seven-year old Beijing-based startup has created a committee that will monitor arising issues, to then submit recommendations to Megvii management, reports South China Morning Post.

“Given the uncertainties in our industry, we strive to build rather than disrupt industries, to change how people work for the better, and to find solutions that respect people’s dignity and privacy,” states Yin Qi, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “These are real policies, not mere words. Still, we acknowledge that challenges remain and these are early days.”

The company’s decision to go public came unexpectedly, considering the negative media coverage of facial recognition technology around the world. A short delay was also expected following accusations from Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the tech company’s Face++ app, China’s cloud-based identity authentication platform, was part of a major surveillance operation undergone by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang Uygur region. The New York watchdog later retracted its accusations.

Another conflict that may have slowed down progress was the startup’s decision to get involved in a Pentagon project related to AI weapons, conflict that generated protests from Google employees.

Due to political and economic unrest in China caused by the US-China trade war, Chinese e-commerce conglomerate, and top investor in the startup, Alibaba chose to postpone its $15 billion public listing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Megvii not only develops facial recognition technology, but also works on improving traffic management through AI algorithms. In spite of Beijing’s recession, the company aims to raise between $500 million and $1 billion in public offering, writes Reuters.

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