US Bans Chinese Facial Recognition Tech


A Chinese company that develops facial recognition technology could be facing a ban in the U.S.

According to the Financial Times, the facial recognition cameras are created by Hikvision, one of the world’s biggest CCTV companies, selling video surveillance throughout China and across the globe. However, its core components — from the chips that power its smart camera to the hardware that stores high-definition footage — are made in Silicon Valley.

The cameras are also used to track Muslims coming in and out of mosques in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, which has led to the detention of thousands of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in internment camps. Human rights campaigners have called it a systematic repression of Xinjiang’s 11 million Muslim Uighurs.

As a result, the United Stated has banned government agencies from buying Hikvision smart camera products, and now there are rumblings that the company might be facing a ban on on importing U.S.-made components. The United States is also reportedly considering sanctions against companies and Chinese officials over Beijing’s actions.

The news led to a 37 percent drop in the company’s share price from its high earlier this year.

“Components from western companies are pretty important to Hikvision’s overall supply chain. At the very least, a U.S. government export ban would cause a major disruption,” said Charles Rollet, an analyst at IPVM, a video surveillance research company.

Yet Hikvision has denied that it is dependent on U.S. suppliers. “In the surveillance industry, the components we need are much less than those needed for smartphones or telecom equipment. We think we should be OK if we cannot buy anything from the U.S.” Huang Fanghong, Hikvision’s vice-president, said during an earnings call this April.

Still, a ban from the U.S. would be devastating for the company. In October, the U.S. hit Chinese state-backed chipmaker Fujian Jinhua with an export ban, citing national security reasons. And in April, it imposed a temporary export ban on Chinese telecoms company ZTE, which closed down weeks later.