Chinese security firm advertises ethnic recognition technology while facing UK ban | Surveillance

A Chinese security camera company has advertised ethnic recognition features to UK and European customers, even though it faces a ban on UK operations due to allegations of involvement in ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang.

In a brochure posted on its website, Hikvision announced a range of features it said it could provide in conjunction with British startup FaiceTech.

These included the use of facial recognition for retail security, border control and anti-money laundering checks for retail banking.

The brochure also advertised “optional demographic profiling facial analysis algorithms,” including “gender, race/ethnicity, age” profiling. A second company, based in Italy, was also cited on Hikvision’s website as offering racial profiling.

The company removed both claims from its website following a Guardian investigation and said the technology had never been sold in the UK. The document, he said, detailed “the potential application of our cameras, with technology built independently by FaiceTech and other partners.”

FaiceTech denied ever working with Hikvision and said the brochure was created and published without its knowledge or consent. In a legal letter sent to Hikvision, seen by the Guardian, the UK company demanded the document be removed because it “is likely to mislead the public into falsely believing that our client is somehow other associated with Hikvision”.

The pamphlets were first discovered by campaign group Big Brother Watch. In a statement, Madeleine Stone, the group’s head of legal and policy, said: “It is deeply alarming that the same racist technology used in Xinjiang to suppress the Uyghur population is being marketed in Britain. Hikvision normalizes deeply intrusive surveillance capabilities that have no place in a democracy.

“Hikvision’s surveillance products pose a real threat to rights and security. The government must act now to ban this rights-violating technology.

Hikvision was placed on a US trade blacklist in 2019, after the US Department of Commerce said it had “been involved in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of the campaign China of repression, mass arbitrary detentions and high-tech surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs”. , and other members of Muslim minority groups”.

The company has acknowledged that its cameras may have been used in the country’s “re-education camps” and was discovered in 2019 to have marketed at least one security camera capable of automatically recognizing the analyst’s “target racial attributes”. … such as Uyghur, Han”. This marketing document was quickly taken down after it was noticed by the media.

Unlike in the US, Hikvision cameras are widely used in Britain, a 2020 Guardian investigation found. Public records showed they were used by council areas such as Kensington and Chelsea, Guildford, Coventry , Chelmsford and Mole Valley, among others.

They have been installed in a high school toilet in Hunstanton, West Norfolk, and in branches of a high-end gym chain in the UK, where the heat vision products from the company were used as part of the Covid response.

The British government was defeated in the House of Lords on Wednesday when it opposed an amendment banning the use of cameras by Hikvision and another Chinese company, Dahua, from being bought or used by the public sector.

The clause, added to the procurement bill by David Alton, an unqualified peer, requires the government to publish a timetable for the removal of physical technology or surveillance equipment from the government’s supply chain where there is evidence that the supplier has been involved in modern processes. slavery, genocide or crimes against humanity.

In a statement, Hikvision said, “We do not comment on pending or potential legal proceedings. The brochures in question detail the potential application of our cameras, with technology built independently by FaiceTech and other partners.

“Hikvision has never been involved in their development process and has no role in the potential implementation and use of these solutions. Hikvision does not sell its product directly to the market, but rather through distributors and integrators. This particular capability was never sold in the UK by Hikvision.

“In 2018, a separate recognition feature produced by Hikvision, which did not focus on any particular ethnic group, was removed via a firmware update and is no longer available, as reported by The New York Times. in 2019.

“Hikvision has strictly followed all applicable laws and regulations in the UK and in all countries where we operate to ensure full compliance.

“Hikvision has never knowingly or intentionally committed human rights violations or acted in willful disregard and will never do so in the future.”

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