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Chinese facial recognition deployments in India, Europe prompt warnings

NGO, lawmakers criticize decisions

biometric identification facial recognition

Chinese-made surveillance projects including biometrics have accelerated in India in recent years, which were developed in the aftermath of terror attacks in the country to enhance internal security, says the Indian NGO Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF).

IFF argues that Chinese facial recognition technologies have been developed in an unfair or inaccurate way, and with India’s lack of data protection laws, the systems could have serious consequences for Indian citizens. Though in September 2020 India’s government was considering legislation for protecting personal data, including biometric information, the law has not yet been implemented.

Tech giant Huawei is responsible for supplying surveillance technology to over fifty countries around the world, writes IFF, and in 2019, the Delhi Government hired Chinese company HikVision to set up 150,000 CCTVs in the city, whilst a factory for manufacturing these cameras was built last year.

Database creation for criminal tracking systems in India include The Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Project, and The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), both of which allow user agencies to access data gathered from various databases to tackle crime.

Concerns for India follow reports on some of the uses of China’s facial recognition on citizens, such as targeting the minority Uighur population.

Resources should be directed towards improving the quality of life in India, such as public health infrastructure, and not on building a surveillance regime that will further traumatise Indians, concludes IFF.

European MEPs raise concerns over Chinese surveillance project in Serbia

A surveillance project in Belgrade, Serbia, implemented by Huawei is likewise attracting the concern of European government officials over potential risks posed by the network of smart surveillance cameras in the city, writes Euractiv.

The ‘Safe City’ project began in 2019, using facial recognition equipped cameras to identity and verify persons from a digital image.

“We are still not aware of how this equipment was procured. Given that this is top-of-the-range technology, we are also not sure how it will be maintained. We hope that the Serbian authorities will be able to clarify both aspects for us,” says MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Greens/EFA, France). She adds that one of the goals of the project is to not allow dissident voices.

Human rights advocates have openly criticised the system, which will also have license plate recognition capabilities. While in use in China, Europe has laws in place surrounding biometric surveillance practices — though some have recently argued that Europe’s laws are not tight enough.

European MEPs are determined to raise the issue of the project with Serbian counterparts and have already written a letter about this issue to the Serbian Minister of Interior.

A public debate has so far been avoided on the project, according to Euractiv.

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