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Chinese hardware raises biometric data security concerns in India, Scotland

Chinese hardware raises biometric data security concerns in India, Scotland
 

Computer chips and cameras from China have sparked fresh data security worries two continents.

Indian security officials have been probing likely data breaches from the use of biometric attendance devices deployed by thousands of government institutions across the country.

This comes after intelligence authorities became aware that the machines, supplied by over ten Indian firms, are embedded with microchips and hardware of Chinese origin, India Today reports.

The microchips are suspected to be a conduit for data leaks from government establishments, including sensitive facilities such as military and defense offices, per the outlet.

It is reported that over 80,000 biometric attendance devices have been installed across about 7,500 state and central government entities and used by around 2.6 million workers. This potentially puts their data at risk as data from the devices could be accessed for details about the organizations and location of staff.

Aware that Chinese tech companies are obliged by their home country’s government to declare data to public authorities when the need arises, India has now set up a body made up of intelligence officials to gauge how biometric-related technologies from Chinese firms are used in India, especially in sectors related to national defense and security.

Last October, Taiwanese lawmakers also criticized the deployment of biometric attendance machines from China and Thailand deployed by 19 municipal agencies in Taipei over privacy and security fears.

Hikvision surveillance cameras found at Glasgow University

Concerns about alleged data leaks from biometric attendance system used in public institutions in India come at a time when reports hold that cameras from a Chinese company with established connections to that country’s intelligence and security apparatus have been installed on the campus of the University of Glasgow.

Furthermore, Hikvision has also been linked to human rights abuses meted out to members of a minority ethnic group in China.

The Glasgow Guardian notes in an article that an investigation it carried out shows up to 49 CCTV cameras installed in one of the university’s buildings come from Hikvision, a Chinese government-owned surveillance firm. The building in which the cameras are installed has space for about 2,500 university students.

Deployments of Hikvision CCTV cameras in Europe and the United States have regularly caused controversy in the past several years, and the UK in particular. Authorities in the Kingdom began stripping Hikvision cameras from government premises in 2022, largely out of concern that it would have to share data with Chinese intelligence on request under China’s national intelligence law.

“The fact that [Hikvision cameras] are being removed from government buildings shows that they are a security risk,” University of Sheffield Lecturer in East Asian Studies Dr. David Tobin told the Guardian. “The question is why have they not been removed from other public spaces?”

Hikvision also has been criticized for its reported role in aiding and abetting China’s rights violations against the Uyghurs through mass video surveillance projects.

There have been concerns over the extensive use of biometric technologies from other Chinese firms such as Nuctech in Europe. Particularly, the deployment of technologies from Nuctech across many sectors in Europe has fueled fears about data safety and security. Nuctech and Hikvision are on a U.S. government blacklist as both companies continue to face scrutiny.

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