China has one of the most sophisticated facial recognition surveillance systems on the planet– and Amazon, eBay, Apple, and Google are selling their products and distributing their apps to advance the surveillance state.
Apple and Google have distributed more than 100 apps from three blacklisted Chinese companies by the U.S. State Department: Hikvision, Dahua Technology, and iFlytek.
“We know that these companies are amongst the suppliers of the surveillance regime in Xinjiang and the whole spectrum of incarceration,” said James Millward, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, of Hikvision, Dahua, and iFlytek, according to BuzzFeed. “It points out how difficult it is to try to pressure China on these issues.”
Google has created an Artificial Intelligence Center, it says, to “make everyone’s life better for the entire world” through the development of cutting-edge technology. “I believe AI and its benefits have no borders,” Fei-Fei Li, the company’s chief scientist for AI, wrote in December, 2017. “We look forward to working with the brightest AI researchers in China to help find solutions to the world’s problems. Once again, the science of AI has no borders, neither do its benefits.”
A similar system is being considered for use by European Union officials.
“If the Commission is so keen on these very invasive and far-reaching new powers for law enforcement, it should first ensure watertight and EU wide protection of citizens’ rights,” Sophie in ‘t Veld, Renew MEP, told EURACTIV.
The EU Council report, first obtained by The Intercept, circulated among 10 member states in November 2019, detailing measures led by Austria to legislate for the building of a network of facial recognition databases that could be used and accessed by all EU police forces.
“Just a few weeks ago the Commission was said to consider a temporary ban on the use of facial recognition for law enforcement,” Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld told EURACTIV. “Now it wants to push ahead with it head over heels, and like a thief in the night. What happened? The Commission should drop its technocratic approach to these things. This is not a mere technical matter, to be quickly arranged behind the back of citizens and by rushing it through Parliament.”
German MEP Moritz Körner argues the lack of technical insight into the efficiency of the facial recognition system won’t help law enforcement. “There is no solid scientific evidence of the reliability of facial recognition in a forensic context, and its widespread use for law enforcement purposes would not be proportionate,” he said. “The Commission would be better advised to return to its recent more critical deliberations on facial recognition and should ban its widespread use for law enforcement purposes.”
Slovak MEP Michal Šimečka, who told EURACTIV that “in light of the controversial nature of facial recognition, serious evidence of the technology’s effectiveness and accuracy must first be produced, followed by an EU-wide public discussion.”