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Huawei, Megvii, SenseTime patents describing biometric ethnicity detection, tracking revealed

Huawei, Megvii, SenseTime patents describing biometric ethnicity detection, tracking revealed

Huawei and other China-based firms have attempted to protect technologies related to their ethnicity-tracking biometrics with patents, IPVM has discovered.

The tech giant has also asked China’s intellectual property authority, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), for permission to scrub the references to Uighurs in its patent document, according to the BBC, which conducted its own investigation.

The patent document was originally filed in 2018, and describes systems for improving identification accuracy for images of people with different postures through deep learning.

A company representative says Huawei opposes all forms of discrimination, that racial identification was never part of the R&D project in question, and it should not have been included in the filing.

Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch tells the BBC that ethnicity tracking is now a technical requirement for video surveillance networks operated by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

Huawei’s ethnicity-tracking systems and the fallout from their revelation were reported in December.

Facial recognition unicorns and others make similar references

Megvii, which has just filed for an IPO in Shanghai, has likewise referred explicitly to detecting Uighurs based on facial characteristics in multiple patents, according to IPVM.

The company told IPVM that language used in one of the patent documents could be misunderstood, and it will withdraw the filing. The other predated the AI Code of Ethics the company implemented in mid-2019.

SenseTime, Alibaba, Baidu, Intellifusion and SensingTech have all been discovered to have referred to ethnicity analysis or specifically to Uyghurs in IP filings. The companies each responded that the references do not reflect the intended use of the system.

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