Hikvision claims to have phased out minority recognition in biometric surveillance software
Chinese company Hikvision has confirmed offering minority recognition software based on face biometrics at a given point, but says the feature is no longer available, writes IPVM. The company has not commented on its reported Uyghur recognition analytics.
According to an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken, Hikvision’s technology had a firmware update to no longer include the AI capability that allegedly detected Uyghurs. This is the first time the tech company has addressed the minority recognition controversy.
This feature was described in the company’s product description, which, according to IPVM and Google Translate, reads “Capable of analysis on target personnel’s sex (male, female), ethnicity (such as Uyghurs, Han) and color of skin (such as white, yellow, or black), whether the target person wears glasses, masks, caps, or whether he has beard, with an accuracy rate of no less than 90%.”
IPVM says the company never responded but instantly removed the webpage. This information was referenced by the Danish publication in the interview with Hikvision.
According to the statement the video surveillance company provided, “The recognition function produced by Hikvision was not focused on any single ethnic group, the company removed the function through a firmware update and it is no longer available in current products. This was previously reported by Paul Mozur of The New York Times on April 14, 2019.”
IPVM states there is no actual proof that Hikvision has phased out the minority recognition software, a feature initially requested by the Chinese government. China’s Ministry of Public Security’s guidelines include Uyghur recognition and numerous video surveillance projects. IPVM believes Hikvision may have removed the Minority Analytics feature, which is a separate capability the publication detected in May 2018, which does not individualize Uyghurs. Hikvision has not provided an official comment.
Hikvision is one of the Chinese companies banned from U.S. government contracts, which Security Informed says starts August 13. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) rule enforces Part B of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which bans companies working with the government from selling Chinese video surveillance and telecommunications equipment.
“On or after August 13, 2020, [federal] agencies are prohibited from entering into a contract, or extending or renewing a contract, with an entity that uses any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system,” reads the rule.
Asking for a delay in the procedure, the Security Industry Association (SIA) estimates an $80 billion cost for the federal government to carry out the prohibition. SIA says the “covered video surveillance equipment is some of the most commonly used in the commercial sector in the United States.”
“Federal suppliers across a wide range of industries have increasingly concluded that Part B is unworkable without clarification of the scope and meaning of key terms in the provision, which the rule does not do enough to define,” the SIA warns.