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Huawei smart city projects meet facial recognition block, lawsuit from partner

Huawei smart city projects meet facial recognition block, lawsuit from partner

The implementation of a smart city project in Serbia which includes the installation of surveillance cameras from Huawei with facial recognition is raising concerns among digital rights advocates and even from some members of the European Parliament.

According to a report by Wired, the project, which started with a pilot in the capital Belgrade described as successful, has met with criticism from various quarters including from the country’s Commissioner for personal data protection, as there is yet no legal framework for its implementation.

A strategic partnership agreement to set up the project, Wired recalls, was signed in 2017 between Serbian authorities and Huawei, with an announcement in 2019 for the installation of a thousand smart cameras with advanced facial recognition software in 800 locations.

Following the deployment of the cameras, authorities say the system for facial recognition and the processing of biometric data is yet to go operational as work is still ongoing to put in place the required legal instruments in the country.

But as this goes on, worries surrounding the partnership with Huawei continue to grow. Among the concerns being raised by digital rights experts and advocates is the reported lack of transparency on the part of the Serbian government which is being accused of not sufficiently giving out information on various aspects related to the rollout of the smart cities project.

Concerns regarding the project have also been raised in the European parliament where a group of parliamentarians in April wrote to Serbian authorities raising fingers against the surveillance project, and asked for more information related to the procurement and installation of the system by Huawei. This move, Wired explains, was triggered by Europe’s growing discomfort with China’s growing influence in the western Balkans region, and also because of the Chinese government’s ‘shady’ dealings with the giant tech company.

Huawei faces suit in Pakistan surveillance project

Meanwhile, the Chinese tech giant is facing a legal battle in a United States federal court for allegedly stealing technology from a contractor in the implementation of a safe cities surveillance project in Pakistan, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In a lawsuit filed in California, the contractor, Business Efficiency Solutions (BES) further alleged Huawei pressured it to build a system giving the tech giant a backdoor through which it could access sensitive information on government officials and citizens from a surveillance project in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

The report quotes the chief operating officer of Punjab Safe Cities Project – the body that oversees the Lahore surveillance project — as saying they have also launched a probe into the accusations and have also put a data security check on Huawei.

According to the Journal, Huawei had threatened to end the collaboration with BES on the project if it did not build a duplicate system of the Lahore project network. The information which Huawei eventually had access to in the Pakistani database was said to be “important” to the country’s national security.

Huawei has however denied any wrong doing, telling the Journal there is no evidence it installed any backdoors.

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