Hikvision Markets Uyghur Ethnicity Analytics, Now Covers UpBy: Charles Rollet, Published on Nov 11, 2019
Hikvision has marketed an AI camera that automatically identifies Uyghurs, on its China website, only covering it up days ago after IPVM questioned them on it.
This AI technology allows the PRC to automatically track Uyghur people, one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
The camera is the DS-2CD7A2XYZ-JM/RX, an AI camera sold in China:
Hikvision's product description states this camera supports Uyghur recognition (screenshot via Google Translate):
Below is the text in Chinese and translated English:
Capable of analysis on target personnel's sex (male, female), ethnicity (such as Uyghurs, Han) and color of skin (such as white, yellow, or black), whether the target person wears glasses, masks, caps, or whether he has beard, with an accuracy rate of no less than 90%. [emphasis added]
Hikvision quickly deleted the product page after IPVM inquired about it, the link now shows an error:
The product page had been up for 7 months as Google search results show that it was first indexed in April 2019:
Indeed, the Hikvision page itself said it was last updated (before Hikvision covered it up) on the same date Google returns:
By April 2019, Hikvision was well-aware of the human rights issues surrounding Xinjiang; that same month, they disclosed in their ESG report that they had "recently commissioned an internal review" on the matter.
Uyghur vs Han - China Ethnic Groups
The PRC officially recognizes 56 ethnic groups, which the Chinese ambassador recently described as being 'part of big family of Chinese nation'.
However, Hikvision's analytics only categorizes 2 of those ethnic groups - the largest and the most persecuted.
Uyghurs are a mostly Muslim people primarily in the Xinjiang region of China. In recent years, the PRC has sent an estimated 1 million Uyghurs into "re-education camps" and built a highly intrusive surveillance state in the region.
Purpose of the Analytic
PRC police are using racial analytics to track Uyghurs/distinguish them from the Han majority, as reported by the New York Times in April. The NYT called this "a new era of automated racism", explaining that:
The facial recognition technology, which is integrated into China’s rapidly expanding networks of surveillance cameras, looks exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance and keeps records of their comings and goings for search and review. [emphasis added]
No Other Examples Publicly Shown
IPVM could not find other camera models sold by Hikvision or other PRC manufacturers that explicitly cited Uyghur recognition. However, given how quickly Hikvision covered this up and the sensitivity of this issue, it is reasonable that manufacturers are self-censoring such capabilities even on the Chinese web.
Hikvision's Minority Analytics
This is the second time in 2 years Hikvision has covered up minority analytics.
In May 2018, IPVM reported about Hikvision's minority analytics, which they inadvertently showcased at a conference in China:
In this instance, Hikvision's analytics only tracked "ethnic minority", with no explicit mention of Uyghurs.
However, Hikvision removed that from the 2018 video following IPVM's reporting and then VOA publishing "Technology company Hikvision sees new technology to identify minorities in surveillance video":
Indeed, after that, the New York Times reported that Hikvision had "began phasing [minority analytics] out in 2018". However, as this 2019 Hikvision product shows, that was not the case.
Uyghur Group Calls Out Hikvision's "New Horror"
AI-enabled racial profiling for cultural extermination is the new horror brought to us by "Made in China" high tech. Through its key role in building China's 24-7 techno-surveillance state in the Uyghur Region, Hikvision is directly complicit in a crime of historic dimensions: Uyghurs' mass internment and torture, and a new network of permanent forced-labor factories.
Fred Hiatt's column in the Washington Post this week referred directly to the defining genocide of the 20th Century: "In China, every day is Kristallnacht." AI-enabled ethno-religious persecution is the CCP's catastrophic invention of the 21st Century.
Human Rights Watch: "Not Permissible"
Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch's senior China researcher, told IPVM that Uyghur analytics are "not permissible from an international human rights perspective", particularly in the PRC:
this is not just racial profiling or prejudice, it's much stronger than that. It's specific targeting of one group of people using automated technology for the purpose of persecution
Hikvision No Comment
Hikvision declined to comment to IPVM about marketing a camera with Uyghur analytics. Hikvision deleted the camera's webpage soon after we inquired about this issue last Friday; IPVM also asked Hikvision why they did this, but we have received no response.
SIA Silent on Analytics, Not Reviewing Hikvision
The Security Industry Association (SIA) provided no response to IPVM about one of its members openly showcasing Uyghur analytics.
We also asked SIA about Hikvision's ongoing membership given that Hikvision was sanctioned for "human rights violations and abuses" against Uyghurs last month. SIA replied:
If and when the Board decides to review the status of any member in the future, if warranted, we will likely issue a statement that you would receive.
This stands in stark contrast to SIA member Aventura Technologies getting charged (but not convicted) of crimes last week, leading SIA to quickly state they were reviewing Aventura's member status, even deleting Aventura's member profile from its website.
PRC On Xinjiang Surveillance
While ethnicity analytics are commonplace in the PRC, they are rarely explicitly brought up or defended. More generally, the PRC has defended extensive surveillance in Xinjiang as "necessary to counter terrorism", per state paper Global Times:
Hikvision and its supporters have long insisted that the company is a mere "product supplier" that cannot control how its cameras are used or where they end up.
While this has always been false, the fact that Hikvision explicitly markets a camera that identifies Uyghurs makes it clearer than ever that Hikvision purposefully contributes to the repression of this embattled minority.
(Photo of Uyghur man by Urbain J. Kinet)