Leaked Documents Show UN Facial ID Tenets Framed By China

chinese technology companies, standards, facial recognition, artificial intelligence, AI, united nations, International Telecommunication Union, ITU, news

Technology firms in China are framing facial recognition policies at the United Nations (UN), The Financial Times (FT) reported on Sunday (Dec. 1), citing leaked documents. 

The data obtained by FT shows that Chinese tech firms are striving to expand markets for the latest facial recognition technology while advancing a global standard.

Telecommunications equipment maker ZTE, security camera firm Dahua Technology and the state-owned Chinese telecommunication company China Telecom are among the companies proposing international specifications for universally consistent technology in the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” indicates that the Chinese government will provide infrastructure and artificial intelligence (AI) surveillance tech to Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Standards established in the ITU are often used as doctrine by emerging nations.

“African states tend to go along with what is being put forward by China and the ITU as they don’t have the resources to develop standards themselves,” said Richard Wingfield, head of legal at Global Partners Digital. The firm is focused on human rights on the internet.

Europe and North America already have standards-setting units — IETF, IEEE and 3GPP. Other countries rely on the Geneva-headquartered ITU, with 193 member states, to develop standards.

Standards offer companies a market advantage since the regulations are developed to complement their own proprietary technology. Chinese companies have been expanding their influence in global standards-setting bodies like the ITU and ISO.

Tech companies in China — particularly Huawei, Hikvision, Dahua, and ZTE — provide AI surveillance technology in 63 countries, according to a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

“Huawei alone is responsible for providing AI surveillance technology to at least 50 countries worldwide. No other company comes close. The next largest non-Chinese supplier of AI surveillance tech is Japan’s NEC Corporation (14 countries),” according to the report.

The National Standardization Group for Facial Recognition Technology was launched last week by Hong Kong-based AI firm SenseTime and 27 other tech companies, including Tencent, Xiaomi and Ant Financial. Its goals include developing standards for safety and accuracy, as well as supervising the fast development of the technology.