Chinese biometrics research a problem for U.S. journal and Oxford University
The Chinese government keeps making biometrics research more lucrative, but for Western companies, it could be that it is becoming too hot to handle.
Much work is being done on biometric surveillance with the full backing of China’s autocratic government. Unlike in the developed world, Beijing does not tape a fig leaf over its efforts to monitor as many human beings as possible.
But its influence in biometrics research, including genetics, has grown so big that it is increasingly bumping uncomfortably into the West’s programs.
The Intercept has reported on chaos among editorial board members of the U.S.-based journal Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine in the wake of papers published that could be used by Beijing to further oppress its ethnic and political minorities.
Eight of the journal’s 25 board members resigned, according to The Intercept.
Two years ago, the journal began publishing forensic genetics papers by authors in China. Papers it published on this topic allegedly have been overwhelmingly from researchers in China, which raised concerns in the field.
Forensic genetics has been used to biometrically identify populations that the Chinese government wants to eliminate as a political threat.
The best example right now is the millions of Muslim Uyghurs that the government has felt free to persecute since 9/11, when the Bush administration signaled to the world that it would not mind if restive Muslim populations worldwide were tempered.
The journal’s editor-in-chief, Suzanne Hart, allegedly tried to wait out a practitioner’s concerns emailed to her. The matter was brought up to the editorial board by the practitioner, and reportedly share his qualms. When she apparently tried to stall on the board’s requests for action, board members resigned.
In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, Oxford University is facing questions about £300,000 in research funding from Tencent AI Lab, a unit of Tencent, which is accused by many as being complicit in oppression of Uyghurs and other Chinese minorities.
According to reporting by the Byline Times, the lab has since 2018 fully funded “collaboration on large scale machine learning,” especially facial recognition.
The university has said it performed due diligence and found that Tencent is “an appropriate donor.”