Huawei Is Crafting Facial Recognition Tech That Will Make It Easier For The Chinese Government To Target Citizens It Doesn't Like

from the be-as-evil-as-possible dept

The Chinese government's war against its own citizens continues. The repression and persecution of China's Uighur population has been well-documented. The Chinese government is fighting a surveillance war on multiple fronts, beginning with its own citizens, who must maintain a positive "citizen score" to live life without too much government harassment. Its attempt to hold Hong Kong to the same oppressive standard has been met with significant resistance. But, in the end, China will consummate its takeover of Hong Kong with a removal of its independence.

Uighur Muslims have been the focus of the government's unmitigated wrath for years. China wants these residents either locked up or living in another country entirely. And it's pressuring tech companies to assist in their oppression. Far too many have complied. Documents seen by the Washington Post show Huawei has decided to be the Chinese government's posse, helping the government locate and target Uighur residents.

The Chinese tech giant Huawei has tested facial recognition software that could send automated “Uighur alarms” to government authorities when its camera systems identify members of the oppressed minority group, according to an internal document that provides further details about China’s artificial-intelligence surveillance regime.

The tech Huawei is developing attempts to determine a person's age, sex, and ethnicity using only facial shots. Given that this tech hasn't proven itself able to reliably recognize faces, it seems unlikely it will perform these extra tasks with better accuracy. False positives are guaranteed. And a false Uighur positive in China means citizens will be detained and subjected to a lifetime of brutal punishment just because they happened to trigger a Huawei "alarm."

According to Huawei, this proposed system has not gone live.

Both companies have acknowledged the document is real. Shortly after this story published Tuesday morning, Huawei spokesman Glenn Schloss said the report “is simply a test and it has not seen real-world application. Huawei only supplies general-purpose products for this kind of testing. We do not provide custom algorithms or applications.”

Maybe this is true. But it's also the sort of statement a company would release when being pressured by a government to avoid revealing ongoing surveillance programs.

Even if the system isn't live at the moment, that doesn't change the fact that it will be live at some point in the future. And the Chinese government will have a tool it can use to target a small percentage of its population -- a tool whose ability to recognize faces alone is already questionable. Adding in other factors only increases the possibility of false positives.

Then there's the mission creep. If it "works" for China, other countries looking to target people for their sex, race, or age will have a tool that's been field-tested and ready for deployment. China's not the only authoritarian regime looking for exciting new ways to persecute certain citizens. Following through with development of this tech means Huawei will be the go-to source for countries looking to add to their human rights violation rap sheets.

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Filed Under: china, civil liberties, civil rights, facial recongition, surveillance, uighurs
Companies: huawei


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 12:17pm

    'Which is to say we're not doing it YET.'

    Both companies have acknowledged the document is real. Shortly after this story published Tuesday morning, Huawei spokesman Glenn Schloss said the report “is simply a test and it has not seen real-world application. Huawei only supplies general-purpose products for this kind of testing. We do not provide custom algorithms or applications.”

    That... doesn't actually read as any sort of denial at all. You don't test something you aren't at least considering doing, and given the wording it very much sounds like they only fine-tune products after testing, which makes sense but is not in any way a 'We don't plan on doing X' response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 12:29pm

    If they can ever

    Be able to sort these 2 closely related groups, its going to be a strange day.

    "One study by Xu et al. (2008), using samples from Hetian (Hotan) only, found Uyghurs have about 60% European or South-West Asian ancestry and about 40% East Asian or Siberian ancestry. From the same area, it is found that the proportion of East Asian/Siberian ancestry in Uyghurs ranges individually from 15.7% to 59.7%, and the proportion of European/West Asian ancestry in Uyghurs ranges individually from 40.3% to 84.3%"

    1 of a couple studies. and the whole of it is the Edges of the country. Where the old trade routes used to be. You might as well, have a program in the USA to Sort out every person from ALL the EU from generations ago. After having 4-5 countries blood mixed into things, can you Sort out 3-5 Races from 1 person.
    Seems as bad as Hitler and others trying to Sort out the population. 1/2 of Africa Nations have tried it. Even the USA has tried it a few times. Esp. after the Corps got done having them WORK for CHEAP.

    In all of this there is little reasoning, except to Lower the population of the nation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 12:46pm

    Well there! Had Trump not've kicked Huawei into touch, he could have had this. Think of the number of people he'd have had arrested! Just under half the US population, i would guess!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Latest in Linux: earlyoom sez ?OM just like TRS-80, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:13pm

    You've flipped your take on Huawei, now ADMIT Trump was right.

    All on first page just by taking search. 3 Huawei pieces ago, July 15 this year, seems to be turning point, though you're clearly vexed at having to so attack US companies:

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Latest in Linux: earlyoom sez ?OM just like TRS-80, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:14pm

      Re: You've flipped your take on Huawei, now ADMIT Trump was righ

      While there's really no denying that Chinese smartphone and network gear maker Huawei engages in some clearly sketchy behavior, it's generally not anything that can't be matched by our own, home-grown sketchy telecom companies.

      We've repeatedly noted that while Huawei certainly engages in some clearly sketchy shit (like many modern US telecom giants)

      Senator Cotton Dumbly Claims Huawei Building 5G Networks Is Like Letting The USSR Build US Cold War Submarines

      We've noted a few times now how US claims that Huawei routinely spies on Americans haven't been supported much in the way of actual public evidence,

      We've repeatedly noted that while Huawei certainly engages in some clearly sketchy shit (like any good unaccountable telecom giant), the evidence supporting the global blacklist of the company has been lacking.

      We've spent many years pointing out that the freak out over Huawei equipment possibly being compromised by the Chinese government still remains without evidence to back it up.

      Despite a lack of public evidence proving Huawei spies on American citizens (the entire justifying cornerstone of the effort)

      The Trump administration still hasn't provided any evidence

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:22pm

        Re: Re: You've flipped your take on Huawei, now ADMIT Trump was

        man, you didn't drink the kool-aid, you chugged ten kegs of it

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Ten-keg Chugger of Genuine Kool-Aid, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: You've flipped your take on Huawei, now ADMIT Trump

          man, you didn't drink the kool-aid, you chugged ten kegs of it

          Could you phrase your comment with due regard to topic? Why do you insist on cluttering the site with off-topic irrelevance?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Ten-keg Chugger of Genuine Kool-Aid, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:27pm

    Back to getting BLOCKED after a couple comments!

    Tried removing the funny name, then just cut off block quotes and hit "Resend" until in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Ten-keg Chugger of Genuine Kool-Aid, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:27pm

      Re: Back to getting BLOCKED after a couple comments!

      Tried removing the funny name, then just cut off block quotes and hit "Resend" until in.

      You who pretend to know all about the filters --where are ya now, all-knowing "AC Unknown" -- 'splain how I got it in by shortening and trying again

      By the way, Techdirt's accounts must be faulty in some similar way, as commercial spam -- I mean valued Free Speech as I was informed yesterday that the Supreme court says spam is speech even though everyone regards it as practically an attack by entities without rights -- anyhoo, accounts get made and then comment! Techdirt is WACKY every way possible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Ten-keg Chugger of Genuine Kool-Aid, 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:30pm

      Re: Back to getting BLOCKED after a couple comments!

      SO that took a few (couple dozen) MORE tries AFTER the working session just quit. But it's NOT Admin action out of sight, eh? Just some quirk of the system? BALONEY. It only happens to ME (by no other reports), and I'm always on-topic and civil, so it's VIEWPOINT DISCRIMINATION.

      And you fanboys don't KNOW what Admins do here, so don't claim DO.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        AC Unknown (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:46pm

        Re: Re: Back to getting BLOCKED after a couple comments!

        Spam filter. You keep spewing posts out, the spam filter treats you like a spammer.

        And before you complain, you're not the only one who's had it happen to you. I've had messages caught up when I've rapidly replied to people.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 15 Dec 2020 @ 1:53pm

          I imagine most regular posters have triggered the spam filter at least once, it's just you almost never hear about it because unlike Woody they accept that it happens occasionally and move on with their lives rather than spinning wild persecution-complex laden conspiracy theories about how it's proof that the staff are out to mildly annoy them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2020 @ 2:43pm

    Thank fuck we kicked Huawei out of the UK.

    They pretended to be nice, all whilst planting various bugs and code faults in their products, and pumping data from smartphones back to bejing.

    Now the mask is off, and they've exposed themselves as the evil manipulative CCP lickspittles they always were.

    Here's hoping ALL of Huawei tech across the world crashes and burns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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