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Don’t ban Chinese cameras, make better biometrics regulation: Australian academics

Don’t ban Chinese cameras, make better biometrics regulation: Australian academics

Banning Chinese surveillance cameras in Australia may not be a feasible option and the government should instead increase regulation, including more stringent rules for biometric data, according to Australian academics.

Over the past year, the country has been debating the risks of using China-made CCTV and facial recognition systems, such as those from Hikvision and Dahua. In February, the government promised to remove Chinese cameras from state and federal buildings across Australia, admitting a potential security problem.

A categorical ban on Chinese-made technologies, however, may come with high economic costs, Ausma Bernot and Marcus Smith from the Charles Sturt University in Canberra argue in a new research paper published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs.

“Timely and effective regulations aligned with individual and national interests would begin to resolve these concerns along with those for China-made information-collecting technologies,” the researchers write. “This approach would also help avoid politicization and focus on clear guidelines for privacy-protecting regulation.”

The academics say there are three possible pathways for such regulation. The first is addressing data security risks such as potential data transmission to the Chinese government as well as large-scale cyberattacks.

The second is enhancing data privacy regulation which is lacking, particularly when it comes to facial recognition.

Finally, researchers say that there is a need to prevent unauthorized integration of surveillance capabilities. As an example, they noted the 2021 ruling against 7-Eleven which integrated face biometrics as part of a customer survey campaign without getting subjects’ consent.

Concerns over potential national security risks and cyber espionage have prompted governments across the world to evaluate and take measures against Chinese-made technologies, including in the United States and the United Kingdom. UK Biometrics Commissioner Fraser Sampson has described the cameras made by Hikvision as “digital asbestos.”

Hikvision and Dahua are leading suppliers of CCTV systems across the globe. Both camera makers were implicated in China’s surveillance and repression of its ethnic minorities such as the Uyghurs. Australia had over 60,000 surveillance camera networks from the two corporations in 2021.

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