Kyrgyzstan and Dominican tap Chinese biometric surveillance tech as concern grows in Scotland

Hikvision biometric facial recognition cameras

The role of Chinese businesses in facial recognition systems in other countries is drawing attention, with a report on Kyrgyzstan’s new CCTV system, groups in Scotland taking stock of what their implementations and investments, and the Dominican Republic expanding its system.

A new police command center in Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek features the management facilities for the country’s new facial recognition system, which Human Rights Watch reports was provided and at least in part paid for by Chinese state company China National Electronic Import and Export Corporation (CEIEC).

Kyrgyz laws include protections for personal privacy, and require consent for biometric data collection, but with broad exemptions for law enforcement and national security. The rollout of the new system comes without public consultation or transparency, according to HRW, and it is not clear if CEIEC is restricted from accessing the data.

“The opaque terms of the CEIEC deal create the risk that the Kyrgyz government could use increased security as a blanket justification for mass surveillance of its citizens,” HRW writes.

The advocacy group urges Kyrgyzstan’s government to pause the technology’s rollout and disclose the details of its deal with CEIEC.

Scotland government using Hikvision cameras

Security cameras from Hikvision are in use by an agency of the Scottish government, The Times reports, drawing concern from Scots concerned about the company’s practices.

Hikvision is among companies recently added to the U.S. government’s Entity List, and was already blocked from some contract with through the National Defense Authorization Act, but its devices were reported last month to still be found in American government facilities. Along the way, more than 1.3 million Hikvision cameras have been sold in the UK.

According to The Times, Education Scotland, South Ayrshire council, and a family water-park had all installed some cameras from the company, though Education Scotland says none are currently in use. Aberdeen Standard Investment (ASI) was reported in April to have provided £70 million in funding to Hikvision.

The issue has been raised in parliament, and Strathclyde University Professor Dr. Angela Daly has urged MSPs to place a moratorium on the company’s technology.

A spokesperson for Hikvision notes that former American ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper has advised the company on human rights compliance, finding several weaknesses in its compliance regime but no knowing role in the human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

“Hikvision has been engaging with officials in the U.S., UK and EU over the past 12 months to clarify misunderstandings about the company and address their concerns,” the spokesperson says.

Dominican Republic purchases cameras with U.S. support

The National Emergency Service of the Dominican Republic is planning to purchase facial recognition cameras from several suppliers to expand its surveillance system, Dominican Today writes.

The cameras have been donated by China, according to the report, and will be added to a system that has improved safety in the country’s cities since being implemented in 2014, according to a statement from the Emergency Service. Financing and technical support have been provided by the governments of the U.S. and Taiwan, and Orange has provided technical support.

Strangely, considering the support from the U.S., the report notes that the cameras were mentioned by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, which may indicate that they are from Hikvision.

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