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

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'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.

ECA (profile) says:

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.

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Latest in Linux: earlyoom sez ?OM just like TRS-80 says:

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

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Ten-keg Chugger of Genuine Kool-Aid says:

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.

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Ten-keg Chugger of Genuine Kool-Aid says:

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.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
AC Unknown (profile) says:

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.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

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.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"I imagine most regular posters have triggered the spam filter at least once"

Happens to me about once every month or two. Usually when I post multiple links in response to someone, but sometimes when I post multiple times in quick succession (and occasionally with no obvious reason).

My response, strangely, is to shrug, carry on with my day and reply to any resulting replies my email notifications inform me of, and remain a calm productive member of society. I’m sure that if my response was to then post another 10 times whining about the first post, I’d have many more problems with it.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"I imagine most regular posters have triggered the spam filter at least once…"

Yeah. added a link? Held for moderation. use certain keywords? Held for moderation. send in too many comments in replies, too fast? Held for moderation.

But Baghdad Bob being the demented shitwit that he is just starts screaming like a stuck pig because he’s inherently unable to conform to any of the rules and guidelines most normal people respect.

I swear, I can see him breaking out a hysterical fit when he gets a parking ticket for not paying the meter. And insisting that’s proof the meter maids are out to get him on behalf of the New World Order.
That would actually make more sense than his actual theory – that Mike Masnick and Tim Geigner have spent years building sock puppets just to nail him with, on behalf of their CIA and Google paymasters.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

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

"But it’s NOT Admin action out of sight, eh? Just some quirk of the system? BALONEY. It only happens to ME"

Let me clue you in here, Baghdad Bob. One criteria spam filters often check is "number of posts in X time". When you exceed that treshold, any further comments within that time windowcoming from the same ip address get held.

This is the same for everyone. You’re the only one demented enough to send off posts at a rate regularly exceeding the spam filter treshold is all. The rest of us, you see, don’t have whatever keyboard touretts prompts you to toss out five comments where one would suffice.

You are that one guy on the freeway who complains about how unfair it is that only you keep getting speeding tickets and that must mean the cops hate you…while the reality is that you’re the only guy speeding.

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

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

Ericsson were caught installing backdoored surveillance on systems they sold to authoritarian nation-states and Cisco’s routers somehow ended up filled with NSA spygear. I’d say Huawei is neither better nor worse than any other electronics manufacturer in that regard.

The US-Huawei embargo had nothing to do with what Huawei did. One of Trump’s good friends asked him to do something about the competition. Were it otherwise, and there was any truth to the allegations Trump was slinging around, then that 18 month probe and security audit performed on Huawei’s hardware would have revealed it.

In this case Huawei is crafting facial recognition tech for China. Well, and Palantir, Clearview, and a dozen other companies do similar or worse for the US.
As we speak there are still thousands of experts taking huawei phones and routers apart (and Cisco, ASUS, and Samsung, to be fair) to find the hidden firmware/surveillance hardware. Nothing has been found so far and nothing ever will.

China doesn’t give a rats ass about spying on westerners. They are paranoid against chinese citizens and expats and that’s all they’re really worried about.

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Anonymous Coward says:

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

So…. just like the US and the west in general then? In order to sit on a high horse and be horrified over this, don’t we need, like… a horse to sit on?

Yes, I know. They are taking it a pretty big step further, to use as a tool for ethnic cleansing, but… our own goverments have drones overhead (only to watch traffic of course), license plate readers (not to track citizes of course), cctv cameras are everywere (not to monitor YOU of course) and people are being wrongly arrested solely on the say-so of a face recognition system.

Can we at least grumpily admit that we aren’t doing all that great in the west either? How far away do you think we are in the west from a facial recognition system that compiles a dossier on everyone it sees (nsa gotta use that data, right) and returns a "danger score" to the police?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"How far away do you think we are in the west from a facial recognition system that compiles a dossier on everyone it sees (nsa gotta use that data, right) and returns a "danger score" to the police?"

It already exists, more or less. What do you think a "no-fly list" consists of or how the data from PRISM is used?

The problem the west now has with China is that the US can only sit in silence, pretending to see nothing, because when China clamps down on Xinjiang because the local secession movement has ties to Al-Quaeda and ISIS the US has done the same or worse. When China treats civil rights like dirt…the US has done the same or worse. And the US fears to comment on the Uyghur camps because Abu Ghraib and the still active black sites remaining render the likely backlash painful.

Hell, the best indicator of where the US is at right now is the FSB-run russian press, because Russia’s corps of government-backed journalists have been having a field day for years; in order to make Russia look good in comparison to the west they don’t even have to lie, ironically producing some of the more brilliant and accurate journalism lately, in some cases.

The OP might as well read "News Flash. Huawei now confirmed acting like a US company".

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