Nov 8, 2019

U.S. military unknowingly bought Chinese surveillance tech, prosecutors say

Surveillance cameras at China's 2019 Public Security Expo on Oct. 28. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP

New York-based Aventura Technologies sold Chinese-made surveillance equipment to the U.S. military for over a decade, the New York Times reports, and federal prosecutors say the company lied about the origin of its products.

The big picture: Aventura Technologies sold surveillance, night-vision and body cameras, automated turnstiles and other security equipment to various government agencies, including the Department of Energy, prosecutors said. The equipment "was vulnerable to hacking ... raising the possibility that American government agencies had installed software in their security networks that could be used for spying by China."

  • The Navy, Army and Air Force are the firm's biggest customers, totaling $88 million in sales since 2010.
  • "[I]ndividuals in China were well aware of what was going on," U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said, citing the investigation into the Chinese-manufactured tech, AP reports.

Where it stands: Seven current and former Aventura employees have been charged with illegal importation and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, per the Times. Two of the defendants — Jack and Frances Cabasso — face money laundering conspiracy charges.

Our thought bubble, via Axios Joe Uchill: China has a reputation for domestic companies beholden to the state that frequently manipulate business relationships and technology for espionage purposes.

Go deeper: China touts dubious emotion recognition tech

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China's move on face-recognition standards

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese tech companies have ramped up efforts to set technical standards for facial recognition, raising concerns among business competitors, political observers and humanitarian advocates.

Why it matters: China has long made a systematic effort to set international standards on data and hardware compatibility across brands so that the standards reflect how Chinese products already work — giving its domestic industries a leg up in engineering races.

Go deeperArrowDec 5, 2019 - World

The threat of a U.S.-China "tech Cold War"

Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, warned at the consulting firm's annual GZERO Summit in Tokyo Monday that a rising "tech Cold War" between China and the West poses "the greatest threat to globalization since the end of World War II."

What he's saying: "Beijing is building a separate system of Chinese technology — its own standards, infrastructure, and supply chains — to compete with the West," Bremmer said. "Make no mistake: This is the single most consequential geopolitical decision taken in the last three decades."

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019

TikTok looks to downplay its China ties

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As lawmakers and regulators zero in on issues around Chinese tech companies and U.S. tech companies' ties to China, the longstanding low U.S. profile of Chinese tech brands is beginning to change.

The big picture: Our devices are made in China but our software and services, for the most part, aren't. TikTok is a big exception — and now the video-sharing network is under fire amid concerns over its Chinese ownership and the potential for censorship or risks to user data.

Go deeperArrowNov 20, 2019