BBC Panorama Documentary on AI Features IPVM

By Conor Healy and Charles Rollet, Published May 28, 2021, 04:54am EDT

The world's longest-running news television program, BBC Panorama, prominently featured research from IPVM in its investigation into AI including critical examinations of Dahua, Hikvision, and Huawei.

Watch the 3-minute clip featuring IPVM including the BBC visiting IPVM's USA testing facility:

IPVM Quoted Alongside Microsoft, Human Rights Watch

The BBC Panorama episode covered how artificial intelligence is changing the modern world, dividing the US and China. IPVM’s Government Director Conor Healy was interviewed for the documentary, joining Microsoft President Brad Smith and Human Rights Watch’s China Director Sophie Richardson, among others.

BBC Banned In China After Xinjiang Reporting

The BBC has authored several high-profile investigations into PRC government human rights abuses in Xinjiang, e.g. rape and sexual abuse against Uyghurs, a look inside Xinjiang's 're-education camps', and Uyghur children being "systematically separated" from their parents; the BBC's reporting on COVID in China was also considered especially sensitive.

In response, this February the PRC government banned the BBC in mainland China and Hong Kong and a month later ejected its Beijing correspondent John Sudworth. PRC state media said this showed the government's "zero tolerance for fake news". (The PRC is ranked as one of the worst countries for press freedom.)

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BBC Quotes IPVM's Hikvision, Dahua, Huawei Uyghur Alerts

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Panorama said IPVM "uncovered new evidence" of high-tech Uyghur repression in the form of 'Uyghur alerts' which automatically detect Uyghur faces for PRC police. IPVM finding a Huawei patent which included Uyghur detection was used as an example:

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IPVM's Conor Healy told the BBC the patent shows Huawei "worked directly with the Chinese government" as it was co-authored with the government-run China Academy of Sciences. The BBC also brought up IPVM's article on Hikvision touting a Uyghur-detecting AI camera:

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Along with IPVM finding Uyghur-tracking code in Dahua's public SDK:

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In response, Huawei told the BBC it "does not condone the use of technology to discriminate or oppress against members of any community". Dahua claimed, without evidence, that it mentioned Uyghurs in the context of all the PRC's 56 officially recognized minorities. Hikvision said its mention of Uyghur detection was "uploaded online without appropriate review", denying its tech had any "minority recognition function".

China Government Falsely Claims No Uyghur Analytics

The London UK PRC Embassy told the BBC that "there is no so-called facial recognition technology featuring Uyghur analytics whatsoever":

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This statement is false, with IPVM and others like The New York Times finding numerous original PRC government and surveillance company documents explicitly mandating facial recognition tech with "Uyghur alarms", "real-time Uyghur warnings", "Uyghur/Non-Uyghur" detection, etc.

The BBC also quoted the chair of China's "Expert Committee on AI Governance" Dr. Lan Xue, who also denied the existence of Uyghur analytics but said that the use of technology against "terrorists" in Xinjiang is "quite understandable":

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[Dr. Lan Xue:] the media outside China - a lot of those sort of charge, many are not accurate and not true, but one thing that we do have to recognize [is] that in Xinjiang there was a separatist movement that generated a lot of terrorists. I think the Xinjiang local government had the responsibility to really protect the Xinjiang people. So I think if the technology is used in those contexts that's quite understandable [emphasis added]

"Huge Implications For Society": 'One Person, One File' Examined

IPVM also contributed as-yet unreported documents illustrating China’s AI-based surveillance ambitions with a system called 'One Person, One File', which was mentioned in a police tender from Nanqiao District (Anhui province) found by IPVM:

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The BBC said "One Person One File could have huge implications for society", as it consists of a system of comprehensive profiles on PRC citizens to analytically assess and even predict individuals’ behavior, tracking things like "relationships", "peer analysis", and political activities, said IPVM's Healy:

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For each person the government would store their personal information, their political activities, relationships... anything that might give you insight into how that person would behave and what kind of a threat they might pose

IPVM found a new Huawei patent suggesting it is also developing a 'One Person, One File' system integrated with facial recognition data:

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Huawei "didn't directly address Panorama's questions about their involvement in One Person One File", the BBC reported, although Huawei stressed that it is "independent of government wherever it operates".

AI Technology Compared To Orwell

The BBC quoted Healy saying that Orwell himself could not have "ever imagined" a system like 'One Person, One File':

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If you have any desire to protest what they're building will cut off your ability to do that before you even start. It makes any kind of dissidency potentially impossible and creates true predictability for the government in the behavior of their citizens, I don't think that Orwell would've ever imagined that a government could be capable of this kind of analysis [emphasis added]

Microsoft President Brad Smith echoed this sentiment, commenting (generally) that he was "constantly reminded of George Orwell's lessons" about "a government who could see everything":

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I’m constantly reminded of George Orwell’s lessons in his book 1984. You know the fundamental story…was about a government who could see everything that everyone did and hear everything that everyone said all the time. [...] Well, that didn’t come to pass in 1984, but if we’re not careful that could come to pass in 2024.

BBC Panorama Other Findings

The Panorama documentary contained a number of other findings unrelated to IPVM, notably PRC police testing emotion-detection software on detained Uyghurs:

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The BBC quoted an anonymous software engineer saying he had installed such systems for PRC police, with AI being used to "indicate a person's state of mind, with red suggesting a negative or anxious state of mind". Human Rights Watch's China Director Sophie Richardson was quoted calling out this "shocking material":

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It is shocking material. It's not just that people are being reduced to a pie chart, it's people who are in highly coercive circumstances, under enormous pressure, being understandably nervous and that's taken as an indication of guilt, and I think, that's deeply problematic.

PRC AI-Based Video Surveillance Raising Alarms Globally

The BBC's extensive quoting of IPVM's findings shows that PRC video surveillance and AI practices are raising unprecedented alarm worldwide. Unethical usage of AI-based video surveillance technology, such as 'Uyghur alerts', threatens core human rights and the video surveillance industry's broader reputation.

2 reports cite this report:

Hikvision Did Not "Knowingly" Commit Human Rights Abuses, Despite Clear Evidence on Jun 29, 2021
A law firm hired by Hikvision concluded it did not "knowingly or...
IPVM For PR / Marketing People on Apr 29, 2020
Since IPVM does not accept advertising nor sponsorships, etc., PR / marketing...

Comments (25)

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Just finished the documentary. A very interesting watch. Congrats to the IPVM team for becoming such a resource of information in the field and having it demonstrated in the video documentary.

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Wow, you guys got a strong response from ‘Truth Seeker’ on LinkedIn. I deleted my comment - hope they don’t come after me 😬

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'Truth Seeker' has a suspiciously Chinese cadence to their writing and I find that amusing.

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There were a number of errors in the program plus it was very biased against CN.

It heavily relied on single-source evidence so unfortunately as a piece of investigative journalism it fell rather short of the mark. Something that the BBC have been failing in quite often these days…

Martin Bashir’s Diana interview

Laura Keunesburg (need I say more)

awful coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic

Very interesting to watch!

The situation is not simple, it’s complex and definitely not straight black or white

ps I do not work for Hikvision somplease don’t beat me!

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Thanks. Can you elaborate on specific problems that you found in the documentary? In particular, if there are any specific issues relating to IPVMs contribution to it, please let me know and we’re happy to review and respond.

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I’ll have to re-watch it as I wasn’t taking notes.

The issues, in general, were the with the reporting. A few of the comments were stretching the plausible!

I assumed that all the documented evidence plus the bits that were obviously IPVM would have been cast-iron verified (else at risk of legal challenge) no one in their right mind would provide any speculative substance to the BBC as they’ll probably twist it anyway!

There is a lot of ignorance around this topic. I have tried to dig the subject out in depth with Chinese nationals in the past.

I believe that both the USA and UK intelligence have significant profiling capabilities that are comparable in depth to the Chinese government.

The US uses it’s ‘special relationship’ with the UK to obtain intelligence on US citizens that would otherwise be unconstitutional and I suggest this likely happens in the other direction too!

Edward Snowden really opened the can on invasive mass surveillance in the intelligence community.

I think morally, the main difference is that the UK and US don’t normally throw people into a detection centre because of it! (In fact the inquiry verdict today in the case of a terrorist that the UK monitored through his jail time and even though there were serious threats posed by that individual, they released home from jail and failed to supervise him to prevent the attack!

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"Paytent"?

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Yes that’s how brits pronounce it -correctly of course :)

aluminium not aluminum

colour…

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we Americans have a long history of non-compliance with world standards.

the failed efforts of the Carter administration's propaganda effort to spur adoption of the metric system in the US in the 70's is just one of many examples.

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I'm sure Carter would be pleased to know us gun enthusiasts and manufacturers have adopted the metric system use for ammunition rounds. Also drug dealers widely use the metric system when marketing their illegal goods (I'm told). So, yeah, consider us cultured.

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"we Americans have a long history of non-compliance with world standards.

the failed efforts of the Carter administration's propaganda effort to spur adoption of the metric system in the US in the 70's is just one of many examples."

This is not a problem. I'm sure we could think of a number of other examples that are also not a problem. Some may even go so far as to state " the US IS the world standard".

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Never heard that before.

And frankly, 'aluminium' is ridiculous. Why add an extra unnecessary syllable, especially given its discoverer was the British chemist Sir Humphry Davy who named it 'aluminum'?

Same with adding unnecessary 'u's everywhere. Colour? Following standard English pronunciation that would be "cul-OOR" or "cole-OWR". Alas, I digress as this is largely academic at this point, as none of us are going to change how each other spells or speaks.

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"And frankly, 'aluminium' is ridiculous. Why add an extra unnecessary syllable, especially given its discoverer was the British chemist Sir Humphry Davy who named it 'aluminum'?

Same with adding unnecessary 'u's everywhere. Colour? Following standard English pronunciation that would be "cul-OOR" or "cole-OWR". Alas, I digress as this is largely academic at this point, as none of us are going to change how each other spells or speaks."

I'm just happy I can understand what they are saying. Try tech support with engineers from other regions in the world; even though they are speaking my native language, I, at times, find it impossible to understand what they are saying and to top it off, they get angry at us because we have to keep asking them to repeat themselves... I'll take British-English any day of the week over some of the others(I'll play nice and not call them out).

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Jiri, thanks. That article is related to a separate report we did with TechCrunch, see: US Government Purchases of Dahua and Hikvision Mapped and US towns are buying Chinese surveillance tech tied to Uighur abuses – TechCrunch

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IPVM well done in exposing what is happening in China with “One Person, One File” and how Hikvision and Dahua are tools for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The western world is completely ignorant with the genocide in Xinjiang. Also, ironic how Professor Russell is warning about AI research of autonomous weapons but fails to recognize the espionage by the CCP in the top research universities in the world. The CCP will obtain advanced AI technology in every possible way, probably too late to debate the ethics of such research in the USA.

Below are just a few news articles about the infiltration of the CCP in research universities:

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" The western world is completely ignorant with the genocide in Xinjiang. "

I don't know if it's more of a matter of ignorance or rather, one of indifference. If it were really valued as an issue in the West, there are numerous platforms that can be used to spread the word. IPVM is paramount in enhancing our knowledge of many bad things happening in other regions of the world (they really like focusing on China though), so with the platforms and knowledge, if not enough is being done to right the wrongs, people don't care, imo. Sex trafficking, drugs and a form of genocide (of an ethnicity mainly committed by others within their own ethnicity) are seemingly uncontrollable in some of the Western world. Most are aware of it, yet not enough is being done to eradicate such behaviors. Do we care enough?

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"(The PRC is ranked as one of the worst countries for press freedom.)"

Only second to the US. We falsely believe we have freedom of press. We don't.

"I believe that both the USA and UK intelligence have significant profiling capabilities that are comparable in depth to the Chinese government.

The US uses it’s ‘special relationship’ with the UK to obtain intelligence on US citizens that would otherwise be unconstitutional and I suggest this likely happens in the other direction too!"

The US is already doing this as noted in another post above with assistance from the UK and Australia. It is nothing new. We will loose control of the AI within 30 years; it took less then 50 years to get to this point. 30 is a conservative estimate. That is of course if we don't extinct ourselves first with another fun virus(or more accurately, the vaccine). But so long as we have the virologists that create them (funded by us...) telling us how to combat them maybe we survive to see the AI pandemic. AI will become as invasive and dangerous as any man made virus so, yes, I'll say pandemic..just remember, like the BS covid-19 and those to follow, we did it to ourselves.

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"(The PRC is ranked as one of the worst countries for press freedom.)"

Only second to the US. We falsely believe we have freedom of press. We don't.

while I agree with you that western intelligence certainly has a heavy hand in 'the press', saying that the US is ahead of China in rankings for worst press freedom is ridiculous - and an insult to those Chinese/Hong Kong journalists that are behind bars for writings that were critical of their own governments practices.

and as far as 'losing control' of AI.... that assumes that there ever was any control to begin with - which there has not been.

I do agree with you that AI will usher in a whole lot of badness when it comes to personal liberties and privacy - but we won't have to wait anywhere near 30 years for it to become even more apparent to the masses than it already is.

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Make no mistake; the AI is dangerous

"but we won't have to wait anywhere near 30 years for it to become even more apparent to the masses than it already is."

I'm not simply stating "more apparent". You had better hope what I'm referring to takes that amount of time. More apparent is one thing, devistating is entirely another.

The Chinese are a different culture ruled by a different type of regime, with a different belief system; so the way in which they treat "press" or the idea of and information as relates to will be obviously different. US government, allies and culture have much more insidious back-handed ways (yes, worse then imprisonment) on a much grander scale then one can imagine to control so called "press". Many people pay little attention to press in the free world and obtain their "news" from the various "controlling"(Not open by any stretch of the imagination) social media platforms. Narratives, not facts or truths are spoon fed every day. This is under the notion of national security and often used by those in 'actual' power as a tool for control. We are moving in a direction of "controlled" (unreal) news, especially if these powerful extremely biased social media outlets are not balanced. It will ultimately end up no different from what we are criticizing china for now. So we aren't jailing journalists, we are still in one form or another muzzling them. The US has as bad if not worse issues in some sense then china but yet we focus so intensely on them. We need to focus on us first, them second. We are a country very devided; this has to stop or we will cease to exist. Depending on the topic and narrative, I may be onboard with it at times and not, at others.

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"(The PRC is ranked as one of the worst countries for press freedom.)"

Only second to the US. We falsely believe we have freedom of press. We don't.

In the World Press Freedom Index, the PRC is ranked #177, the US is ranked #44.

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"In the World Press Freedom Index, the PRC is ranked #177, the US is ranked #44. "

The perspective of many is quite different. Luckily mine is an opinion. The world press freedom index is a joke. The press, in general as it exists (devolved) today is also a joke. Then add in the fact that many so called journalists feel it is ok and feel the need to inject their opinions or skew the facts is also unconscionable. For these reasons I give many of the media based citations in many of these articles zero weight.

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I really appreciate your advocacy of privacy with security and your concerns for human rights. Business must include ethics, after all, no matter how sophisticated we get, it's all for the betterment of humanity, so ethics is central to security, or any field.

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"it's all for the betterment of humanity"

This, although you may believe it, and no disrespect to you for doing so, is not always or even mostly true (imo).

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