China’s Huawei backtracks after submitting for patent to establish Uyghur faces

China's Huawei backtracks after filing for patent to identify Uyghur faces


Filed in July 2018 by Huawei and the government-affiliated Chinese Academy of Sciences, the patent software mentioned the “identification of pedestrian attributes is very important” in facial recognition expertise.

“The attributes of the target object can be gender (male, female), age (such as teenagers, middle-aged, old) [or] race (Han, Uyghur),” the appliance mentioned. It was revealed in a brand new report from the BBC and IPVM, an impartial group which displays video surveillance expertise.

A Huawei spokesperson mentioned in an announcement to Source Business that the corporate would “amend” its patent, including that the ethnicity identification function ought to “never have become part of the application.”

“Huawei opposes discrimination of all types, including the use of technology to carry out ethnic discrimination,” the spokesperson mentioned. “We are continuously working to ensure new and evolving technology is developed and applied with the utmost care and integrity.”

The use of facial recognition expertise in policing and home safety is widespread across China however particularly within the western region of Xinjiang, the place up to 2 million people from Uyghur and different ethnic Muslim minorities have allegedly been put into internment camps, in line with the US State Department.
Beijing maintains that the camps are vocational coaching facilities that assist to deradicalize residents. But Uyghur exiles have described the crackdown as “cultural genocide,” with former detainees saying they had been indoctrinated and abused.

IPVM political director Conor Healy mentioned that Huawei wanted to clarify why the function had been a part of the patent software within the first place.

“What possible reason could there be that they would go file patents and develop a facial recognition system that literally involves hours and hours of training a computer to detect what race somebody is?” he informed Source Business.

“There are very few uses for that kind of technology that benefit humanity.”

Huawei wasn’t the one firm that IPVM mentioned had filed this type of patent.

According to IPVM, Chinese tech startup Megvii submitted a patent software in June 2019 for a system which talked about an “ethnicity classification” that would come with “Han, Uyghur, non-Han, non-Uyghur and unknown.”

In an announcement to Source Business, Megvii mentioned that it could “withdraw” the 2019 patent software, which it mentioned was “open to misunderstanding.” “Megvii has not developed and will not develop or sell racial or ethnic labelling solutions,” the assertion mentioned.

IPVM additionally discovered one other Chinese tech startup, Sensetime, talked about in a patent software in July 2019 that it may establish individuals by ethnicity, particularly singling out “Uyghur” as a risk.

Sensetime informed Source Business that the reference to Uyghurs was “regrettable,” including that it was “one of the examples within the application intended to illustrate the attributes the algorithm recognizes.”

“It was neither designed nor intended in any way to discriminate, which is against our values,” a spokesperson mentioned in an announcement. “We will update the patent at the next available opportunity.”

IPVM’s report is the newest in a sequence of revelations concerning the questionable facial recognition practices of Chinese expertise giants.

In December, Alibaba (BABA) mentioned that it could now not attempt to establish faces by ethnicity after IPVM reported {that a} division of the corporate had proven purchasers how their facial recognition system could detect Uyghurs.
In the identical month, the Washington Post alleged that Huawei had examined facial recognition software program able to sending automatic “Uyghur alarms” to authorities authorities if a member of the ethnic minority was detected by its digicam methods.
At the time, Huawei had denied that it could “develop or promote methods that identify people by their ethnic group.”

“We do not condone the use of our technologies to discriminate against or oppress members of any community,” the corporate mentioned in an announcement posted to its web site.

The newest report comes as governments around the globe are more and more pressuring firms whose merchandise could also be linked to alleged compelled labor camps in Xinjiang.

On Wednesday, the US authorities introduced that it could ban all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang. One day earlier the UK authorities declared that it could fantastic firms that hid economic connections to Xinjiang, as the federal government tried to crack down on merchandise of compelled labor getting into the nation.

In evaluation written for its newest report, IPVM mentioned that the inclusion of Uyghur monitoring within the patent functions for high China tech firms confirmed “how prevalent this racist technology is” within the nation.

“This is a clear example of People’s Republic of China’s human rights abuse against Uyghur people, and also represents a long-term risk for the broader video surveillance industry’s reputation,” IPVM mentioned.

— Michelle Toh contributed to this report.

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