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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The United Nations' standards for facial recognition, video monitoring, and city and vehicle surveillance are being shaped by Chinese tech groups including ZTE, Dahua and China Telecom, according to leaked documents reported by the Financial Times.

Why it matters: Companies that help shape standards are able to craft regulations to fit their own goals and specifications. Developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where China has sought to grow its influence through the Belt and Road Initiative, often adopt standards developed by the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as policy, according to the FT.

  • The FT also notes that facial recognition data from African markets is valued by Chinese companies who are seeking to improve their algorithms, especially for people of color.
  • The Chinese government views shaping standards as a means of furthering its AI leadership ambitions.

Between the lines: Developing widely used standards could promote social acceptance of facial recognition and other AI-driven technologies. However, human rights lawyers argue standards being proposed by the ITU do not do enough to protect consumer privacy and data.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

4 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump with Michael Flynn in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped Tuesday night.