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Regulators try to take more teeth from the maw of Chinese CCTV vendors

Regulators try to take more teeth from the maw of Chinese CCTV vendors

The U.S. and UK pressure campaigns to enforce ethical principles on Chinese facial recognition players have taken some new turns in the last week. It seems machine vision camera-makers notched one win over regulators – and two losses.

In a related development, a key UK retailer has been recertified on that nation’s voluntary principles for the ethical use of overt surveillance cameras. Marks and Spencer had been the first retailer to be awarded a five-year certification, which ended this year.

Simultaneously, an update to the 12 guiding principles of the UK code is being debated.

Efforts to add a pro-human rights clause to the principles, aimed at face biometrics vendors including CCTV system maker Hikvision, appear to have failed.

The Mail on Sunday has reported that the national government is rejecting calls to add regulation making it impossible for firms with questionable ethical surveillance records to sell products in the UK.

Hikvision has been feeling more heat lately, both in the UK and the United States, for its role in supplying surveillance systems specifically designed to neutralize all possible political, cultural and religious influences identified by the autocratic government in Beijing.

According to The Mail, Hikvision products are used across national and local governmental units, and by private UK businesses.

And, while not a stinging rebuke, the UK’s video surveillance chief has rejected a meeting with Hikvision to discuss its involvement in the oppression in Xinjiang of ethnic- and religious-minority Uyghurs.

The government regulator refused Hikvision’s insistence that the meeting be strictly off the record.

Fraser Sampson, commissioner of biometrics and surveillance cameras, told industry publisher IPVM it would be hypocritical for him to agree to that condition. As the nation’s standard bearer for transparency in these matters, it would be unethical to take a meeting behind closed doors with a vendor.

That would presumably be the case even if that vendor was not being banned from new sales in the United States for its unethical practices and perceived security risks.

A proposed U.S. ban affecting both Hikvision and fellow Chinese face biometrics vendor Dahua passed both the House of Representatives and Senate with a grand total of four no votes. President Joe Biden must now sign it, a signature that is almost guaranteed.

The law would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from approving new sales of radio-frequency equipment posing national security risks, a category that includes Hikvision and Dahua.

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