A large share of countries around the world are now using Chinese AI surveillance technology, including facial recognition technology, in full or in part. This is according to a report by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Many countries are combining Chinese tech with U.S.-made surveillance tech, among them the U.S. and China themselves, but also India, Australia, Brazil and several European countries. Many countries in Latin America, South-East Asia, Africa and the Middle East are relying on Chinese technology alone after participating in the Belt and Road initiative, as is Japan, the only developed country to do so. China is not only a prominent user of AI-powered surveillance and facial recognition but also a big producer and exporter of the technology.
The bill, passed Thursday, names several Chinese companies--including Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. 002415 -3.28%, which is 42%-owned by the Chinese government and is the world's biggest maker of surveillance equipment. The company's cameras were present in Fort Leonard Wood, a U.S. Army base in the Missouri Ozarks, and at one time in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, The Wall Street Journal reported last year. Officials at Fort Leonard Wood later removed the devices, though the base's chief of staff said that he didn't deem the cameras to be a security risk. "Video surveillance and security equipment sold by Chinese companies exposes the U.S. government to significant vulnerabilities," Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican who offered the amendment to the bill, said in a statement. She added that the amendment "will ensure that China cannot create a video surveillance network within federal agencies."
Security vulnerabilities are horrible, but one of them is shedding light on the reach of the Chinese surveillance state. Security researcher Victor Gevers discovered that facial recognition firm SenseNets left a surveillance database completely exposed, revealing that it has been tracking over 2.5 million people in the western province of Xinjiang, where China has targeted Uighur Muslims. The company has been holding on to personally identifying info (such as names and ID card numbers) as well as an extensive amount of location info, including 6.7 million data points tagged with names (such as "mosque" and "hotel") gathered inside of 24 hours. The data has been exposed for months, Gevers noted. SenseNets hasn't commented on the findings, but it did start locking down its database after Gevers reported the security hole.
Searches of electronics are common in Xinjiang in China's far west, a heavily Muslim region that has been turned into a virtual police state to tamp down unrest. They are unheard of in most other areas, including where the school is located in the southern Guangxi region, a popular tourist destination known for spectacular scenery, not violence or terrorism.