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China’s biometric cameras still a source of concern and irritation in US, UK

China’s biometric cameras still a source of concern and irritation in US, UK

The focus on alleged human rights abuses in China perpetrated using facial recognition systems has not softened for some.

IPVM, one of the few publications, at least in the United States, to consistently keep the heat on buyers and sellers of Chinese surveillance systems, has published a recent white paper making its case that Hikvision is complicit in government oppression.

At the same time, two UK politicians are emphasizing their conviction that trading with makers of Chinese surveillance systems is ethically indefensible because of the nationwide biometric network of cameras, many of which reportedly are programmed to spot and track ethnic and political minorities.

The subject of their ire is a surveillance-and-imprisonment regime that – particularly in the remote Xinjiang province, the native home of Muslim Uyghurs. (IPVM has reported on other vendors, including Dahua.)

The New York Times has reported on how prohibitions against trading on Chinese surveillance products are less than airtight.

Some portion of those rounded up are taken to what China’s autocratic government calls re-education camp. That description has a long and troubled history in China, but opponents of Beijing’s campaign call the centers concentration camps.

IPVM’s research breaks out five linked contracts, including combined anticipated costs of a quarter of a billion dollars, signed in 2017 by Hikvision for Xinjiang deployment. It also notes, as IPVM has reported in the past, that complaints and protests by Hikvision executives to the contrary, current systems are, indeed, programmed to separate minorities, and specifically Uyghurs.

Other recent coverage by IPVM includes a video clip of Lord David Alton in the UK House of Lords, saying that the nation must ban purchases of Hikvision systems because of its reported role in oppression.

Alton appears to assume that such a ban is inevitable, and says tax dollars spent now on the systems will be compounded by the cost of “stripping them out” when the public demands divestiture. In the statement he read in Parliament, he says he had made this argument to his colleagues 25 times since January 2020.

Elsewhere, UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson has published a note he sent to member of parliament Michael Gove demanding a response to his position on using Chinese-made biometric surveillance systems.

Gove is secretary of state for housing and communities and, presumably, would be the person signing off on systems used on public housing projects. A note was originally sent by Sampson to Gove in April, and a follow-up posted to a public website this week in the absence of a response from the elected official.

Sampson says ethical concerns are significant, but so is concern about what Chinese hardware and software could be collecting, analyzing and sharing in Beijing.

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