Huawei in collaboration with Megvii created a questionably moral algorithm
Chinese giant has tested artificial intelligence software that can recognize Uighur minorities. The Republic of China has been repressing Islamic minorities for years, and the scale of the terror was confirmed by the leak of secret state data. The authorities have created re-education camps for them, where more than a million people are already locked up. Although Uighurs have the legal status of an ethnic minority, in practice they have been the main object of repression by the Communist Party for years.
Huawei has partnered with Megvii
Huawei has tested facial recognition software that can instantly trigger “Uighur alerts” to government authorities. According to internal rules, the equipment will identify the minority group. The research organization IPVM pointed out that the Chinese corporation collaborated with the start-up Megvii in 2018, where the fruit of their collaboration was a facial recognition system, and based on this you can determine the age, gender and ethnicity of people who were in a larger group. China has taken an interest in such a mechanism to target Muslim ethnic groups. Human rights activists have pointed out that such technology has grown in popularity among Chinese police officers in recent years. An IPVM investigation has pointed out how Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, contributed to the development of software that is morally and ethically controversial. The giant, through a co-op, shared servers, cameras and cloud infrastructure. Huawei and Megvii have released three monitoring systems in the past few years, however there is no confirmation if one of them was the “Uyghur alarm” system. Chinese authorities have shown approval of the whole project, pointing out that such systems reflect the technological progress in the country, and that such software can be used in the rescue system and will provide even more security for citizens. Algorithms tested on millions of facial photos can begin to detect certain “beauty patterns” and distinguish Uighur minorities from the Han majority in China. China’s totalitarianism should be a warning to us all. Ethnicity detection software is not available in the United States.
Opposition from human rights activists
Human rights activists strongly disagree with China’s position, believing the system is a “dream come true” for communist authorities. Chinese regime already showed interest in total social control several years ago. This software would undoubtedly help implement these plans, as the ability to identify people in urban spaces would allow the rulers to identify members of society who are disadvantageous according to the authorities, and the system would be able to suppress public opposition. Chinese human rights researcher Maya Wang pointed out that the country is increasingly using AI-assisted surveillance to monitor the general population and persecute minorities, protesters and others deemed a threat to the state.
The researchers’ position
Artificial intelligence researchers are concerned that technological development and standardization could lead to its spread around the world. Government authorities will want to control and identify ethnic groups they deem undesirable or dangerous. Software has sparked a lot of ethical debate among artificial intelligence researchers. They unanimously point out that such algorithms can contribute to discrimination and deepen social differences. They also claim that the system can certainly generate inaccurate results because its performance will depend on light, face scanning angle, and image quality.
The power of Huawei
Such moves by the Chinese giant could be dangerous, given Huawei’s global reach. The company has a strong position in the market. The brand’s hardware and services are used in more than 170 countries around the world. A Chinese corporation has surpassed Apple to become the world’s second-largest smartphone maker and is aiming to launch new 5G mobile networks internationally to transform the Internet. Megvii is a Beijing-based startup that is gaining global fame for its facial recognition products. The company already proposed an “urban Internet of Things solution” a year ago, which includes a system of cameras, sensors and software that government agencies can use to monitor public opinion.
In China, such a system has already been installed in more than 112 cities. Under international pressure, authorities in the city of Xinjiang (where the hardware is manufactured) announced that university graduates were involved in developing the software, although some Uyghurs report that they were forced to agree to work on the project otherwise they could end up in jail. Xinjiang authorities say all workers performed their duties voluntarily.