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

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

“The attributes of the goal object could be gender (male, feminine), age (akin to youngsters, middle-aged, outdated) [or] race (Han, Uyghur),” the appliance mentioned. It was revealed in a brand new report from the BBC and IPVM, an unbiased group which screens video surveillance expertise.

A Huawei spokesperson mentioned in a press release to CNN Enterprise that the corporate would “amend” its patent, including that the ethnicity identification characteristic ought to “by no means have turn out to be a part of the appliance.”

“Huawei opposes discrimination of all kinds, together with the usage of expertise to hold out ethnic discrimination,” the spokesperson mentioned. “We’re constantly working to make sure new and evolving expertise is developed and utilized with the utmost care and integrity.”

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Using facial recognition expertise in policing and home safety is widespread throughout China however particularly within the western area of Xinjiang, the place as much as 2 million individuals from Uyghur and different ethnic Muslim minorities have allegedly been put into internment camps, in accordance with the US State Division.
Beijing maintains that the camps are vocational coaching facilities that assist to deradicalize residents. However Uyghur exiles have described the crackdown as “cultural genocide,” with former detainees saying they have been indoctrinated and abused.

IPVM political director Conor Healy mentioned that Huawei wanted to elucidate why the characteristic had been a part of the patent utility within the first place.

“What attainable cause may there be that they’d go file patents and develop a facial recognition system that actually includes hours and hours of coaching a pc to detect what race any person is?” he advised CNN Enterprise.

“There are only a few makes use of for that form of expertise that profit humanity.”

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

In accordance with IPVM, Chinese language tech startup Megvii submitted a patent utility 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 a press release to CNN Enterprise, Megvii mentioned that it could “withdraw” the 2019 patent utility, which it mentioned was “open to misunderstanding.” “Megvii has not developed and won’t develop or promote racial or ethnic labelling options,” the assertion mentioned.

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

Sensetime advised CNN Enterprise that the reference to Uyghurs was “regrettable,” including that it was “one of many examples throughout the utility meant for instance the attributes the algorithm acknowledges.”

“It was neither designed nor meant in any method to discriminate, which is towards our values,” a spokesperson mentioned in a press release. “We are going to replace the patent on the subsequent accessible alternative.”

IPVM’s report is the most recent in a sequence of revelations concerning the questionable facial recognition practices of Chinese language 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 shoppers how their facial recognition system may detect Uyghurs.
In the identical month, the Washington Submit alleged that Huawei had examined facial recognition software program able to sending computerized “Uyghur alarms” to authorities authorities if a member of the ethnic minority was detected by its digicam programs.
On the time, Huawei had denied that it could “develop or promote programs that establish individuals by their ethnic group.”

“We don’t condone the usage of our applied sciences to discriminate towards or oppress members of any neighborhood,” the corporate mentioned in a press release posted to its web site.

The most recent report comes as governments world wide 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 merchandise from Xinjiang. In the future earlier the UK authorities declared that it could tremendous firms that hid financial connections to Xinjiang, as the federal government tried to crack down on merchandise of compelled labor coming into the nation.

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

“This can be a clear instance of Individuals’s Republic of China’s human rights abuse towards Uyghur individuals, and likewise represents a long-term threat for the broader video surveillance business’s popularity,” IPVM mentioned.

— Michelle Toh contributed to this report.


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