Dec 1, 2019

Leaked documents show Chinese businesses are shaping UN facial recognition standards

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.

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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

Department of Homeland Security drops controversial facial recognition plan

A facial recognition system at Dulles Airport. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

The Department of Homeland Security has backtracked on a plan to require every person, including U.S. citizens and green-card holders, to submit to a facial recognition screening before entering or leaving the country.

Why it matters: Facial recognition has emerged as a privacy flashpoint. As some cities pass bans on the technology, the federal government has pushed forward — but this reversal shows the limits of public appetite for its use.

Go deeperArrowDec 5, 2019

DHS renews facial recognition plans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios Visuals

The Department of Homeland Security recently updated its proposal to include U.S. citizens in facial recognition databases when entering or leaving the country.

The big picture: This move is part of the agency's long-term plan to upgrade the TSA's biometrics and identification technology, which has included facial recognition testing at over a dozen major airports.

Go deeperArrowDec 4, 2019