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Investigation reveals Dahua biometric systems sent ethnicity warnings to Chinese police

Investigation reveals Dahua biometric systems sent ethnicity warnings to Chinese police
 

Revelations about ethnicity-tracking biometric systems being developed by many of the biggest names among China-based artificial intelligence and facial recognition providers continue, with Dahua the latest discovered by IPVM to have developed the capability.

Dahua had denied selling an “ethnicity-focused recognition function” when a code analysis showed that it had been written into the software last November. However, its systems sent “real-time Uyghur Warnings” to Chinese police, according to a joint IPVM investigation with the Los Angeles Times.

The investigators cite numerous references to Uyghurs in documents about police video surveillance efforts on Dahua’s product support portal, as well as a December 2019 document on the company’s Smart Police Heart of City program. A document from March 2020 likewise refers to “real-time Uyghur warnings,” according to IPVM’s translation.

On detecting a suspected Uyghur, the system would send an automated warning to police.

A reference in a March 2019 internal test report shows a warning specifically for “non-local Uyghurs,” and the document shows the feature passed its test. Categories tracked under a “police data” heading also included “Uyghurs with hidden terrorist inclinations.” IPVM suggests such inclinations are indicated by characteristics like having a full beard or attending a mosque.

The report also notes that Dahua has won nearly $1 billion in police surveillance projects in Xinjiang, and after being placed on the Entity List by the U.S. for involvement in rights abuses there, the company bragged that the sanctions indicate its technological prowess.

Dahua did not respond to IPVM or the Times requests for comment.

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