Uniview Racist Uyghur Recognition RevealedBy Charles Rollet, Published Nov 16, 2020, 09:13am EST
Uniview, the PRC's third-largest video surveillance manufacturer and a major supplier of China police projects, has racist software used for tracking Uyghurs, IPVM has found. Uniview responded to IPVM but avoided explaining their Uyghur tracking software.
China's three largest security camera manufacturers have all been caught offering racist software. Earlier this month, Dahua was caught using Uyghur analytics and last year Hikvision promoted a Uyghur-detecting AI camera.
This shows how PRC video surveillance manufacturers profit from the systematic oppression of Uyghurs.
It also risks Uniview attracting human rights scrutiny, an unwelcome development for the firm given that it has so far avoided the US government sanctions that Hikvision and Dahua received for helping oppress Uyghurs.
Uniview SDK Includes Uyghur Detection
The publicly-available SDK on Uniview's Downloads page [UPDATE - Uniview has now deleted it] (ARCHIVED - the 22.214.171.124 SDK's NetDEVSDK.h file) includes Uyghur detection, IPVM has found and confirmed, as shown below:
"Ethic" is a typo for the word "ethnic"; Uyghurs are one of China's 56 officially recognized ethnic groups. However, only Uyghurs were listed under this ethnic code tracking.
Uyghur Analytics Extremely Widespread
The goal of Uyghur analytics is for PRC police to be automatically notified every time a Uyghur-looking face is detected by a security camera. These analytics are explicitly racist, singling out members of an ethnic group that is currently being rounded up and sent to camps by the PRC government.
These analytics are very common all over China (not just Xinjiang). IPVM previously found over a dozen PRC police departments using Uyghur analytics and China's top law enforcement agency even included them in national facial recognition guidelines.
Uniview Touts PRC Police Projects
Uniview has long touted itself as a major China police video surveillance provider. On Chinese social media, Uniview says that to date, it has won 249 "Sharp Eyes" and 741 "Safe City" projects:
As IPVM has covered, both these programs involve wide-ranging police video surveillance networks.
Uniview made about $750 million in revenue in 2019 and describes itself as China's third-largest video surveillance manufacturer, behind Hikvision (which made about $8.8 billion in sales last year) and Dahua (which made about $3.73 billion.) About two thirds of Uniview's revenues come from China.
Huawei Ties Obscured
Uniview began as the surveillance division of H3C, a joint venture between Huawei and 3Com. In 2011, H3C was spun off and renamed to Uniview by US private equity firm Bain Capital. In 2017, Bain sold Uniview to Chinese smart transport firm TransInfo.
In recent years, Uniview has scrubbed mentions of Huawei from its website. Compare Uniview's "About" page in 2018, which highlights Huawei:
Uniview's move to distance themselves from Huawei is not surprising given that the US government has heavily sanctioned Huawei.
Uniview Backed By Alibaba
Last year, Alibaba made a $500 million investment in Transinfo, buying about 15% of the company's stock, effectively backing Uniview. The investment was viewed as a major integration opportunity for Uniview due to Alibaba Cloud's intelligent traffic management solution known as City Brain.
A year ago, top Alibaba Cloud security expert Wu Hanqing praised Uniview, stating "Alibaba stands behind Uniview" and "Alibaba Cloud values maximize the role of the cloud, while Univision truly understands the edge of the cloud".
Uniview Response Touts "Ethic Panel"
While IPVM asked Uniview about this Uyghur tracking, Uniview avoided that claiming Uniview "genuinely believe Tech for Social Good":
Uniview genuinely believe Tech for Social Good and sincerely practice our ethic code not only internally with Ethic Panel (just like Google and other reputable high tech companies) but also externally with all the products and service provided. There is no difference in the commitment of aforementioned products and service.
IPVM responded by asking how Uyghur tracking could be considered ethical. We will update if they respond.
Uyghur Analytics Presents Sanctions Risk
Unlike Hikvision and Dahua, there are no US government sanctions against Uniview. This has benefited Uniview, as it has become the most common China alternative to Dahua and Hikvision in an IPVM study.
However, that may change if there is scrutiny on Uniview's police deals and Uyghur analytics. The US government has sanctioned many Chinese video surveillance companies over Uyghur oppression, not only Hikvision and Dahua but also Megvii, Yitu, SenseTime, and NetPosa.
Uyghur Analytics Serious Concerns
Uyghur analytics are a reality in the PRC. PRC companies are profiting heavily from this racist practice, raising significant ethical concerns for video surveillance manufacturers and for companies doing business which such manufacturers.
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