Undercover Investigation Into Hikvision

Author: John Honovich, Published on Oct 03, 2016

An undercover investigation into Hikvision's HQ was conducted by a leading UK newspaper, the Daily Mail, revealing how Hikvision's video surveillance systems "spies on its own people to root out dissidents."

Key quotes include:

  • "Far from being the independently run business it claims to be in its customer-friendly marketing, Hikvision is controlled by China's ruling Communist Party."
  • "Hikvision is central to the government's Orwellian programme to spy on its 1.3 billion citizens, and is inextricably linked to the totalitarian crackdown on those considered 'enemies of the state'."
  • "Officials candidly told us their cameras in cities across China are controlled by the government which used them to track wanted people on a vast database of 'bad guys'."

Hikvision told the Daily Mail's undercover reporters that they domestically use vehicle, face and gait analysis allowing tracking enemies of the state across large scales.

For those in the West, this may sound confusing since Hikvision is best known for selling budget cameras and recorders. However, Hikvision inside of China is different. As the China government owned video surveillance manufacturer, they are the #1 CCTV provider to the Chinese government for their large scale city wide / Skynet systems.

Hikvision's partnership with Nvidia is key to driving this.

Below is a video from the simultaneous Hikvision VP and senior Chinese government official leading the effort for advanced analytics within China:

The combination of more advanced technology used inside of China and the China government's access to huge numbers of cameras (hundreds of thousands to millions in any sizable city) allows them tracking impossible in the US where directly government controlled surveillance systems tend to be small (with thousands to few tens of thousands in most US cities at most) and concerns about personal rights are much higher.

Increasing Attention on Hikvision's Government Control and Use

This is the third mainstream news report on Hikvision in the past month, adding to the Times Investigation into Hikvision and the Asian Nikkei Journal's.

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While some subscribe to the 'all press is good press' mantra, this is certainly a net negative to Hikvision because, at best, it is a distraction from their goal of gaining market share overseas; at worst, it is a reason to not do business with Hikvision.

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