On Sale in London: the Surveillance Systems Advancing Authoritarianism

On Sale in London: the Surveillance Systems Advancing Authoritarianism


Every year 500 tech companies come to London to exhibit at IFSEC, Europe’s biggest security fair. They’re showing the most state-of-the-art products in surveillance tech today including the latest tools being used across the globe to advance authoritarianism. This is Coda Story’s Authoritarian Tech channel. Let’s look at the story behind three of the companies at this year’s conference. By 2020 it’s estimated that China will have 300 million surveillance cameras watching its citizens. That’s one for every five people. Have a look at these cameras from a company called Hikvision. What I’ve got here on this wall is we’re showing our multi-lens, single-cable cameras. This is the, I suppose we’d call that the “daddy of the cameras” because they’re like the flagship panoramic. We did talk about applications for them and I can’t think of any vertical where they couldn’t be used. But the mini ones, I think, in education could be really powerful. Hikvision is one of the largest companies supplying cameras to aid China’s crackdown on its Uyghur Muslim community. In Xinjiang, hundreds of Hikvision cameras have been installed outside mosques. An estimated one million Uyghurs have been imprisoned in concentration camps in Xinjiang. The Chinese government call them “vocational training centers.” Inside, cameras watch them day and night. Together with Hikvision this company, Dahua, has received contracts for almost one billion U.S. dollars from the Chinese government for Xinjiang surveillance projects. Dahua have built “WiFi sniffers,” which can tap into internet communications without users’ consent. The U.S. government is considering Huawei-style sanctions against Dahua and Hikvision. But the company’s tech is still on display in London, for sale to international buyers. This French company, IDEMIA, have been pioneering new forms of security technology. In 2017 the company supplied biometric election technology to Kenya. After a series of scandals that involved the alleged sale of voter data on the black market the Kenyan government banned IDEMIA from operating in the country. We ourselves take data very, very seriously and our customers’ data is a very private thing, and we know that some countries around the world don’t allow for that. IDEMIA is also known for developing facial recognition technology. Facial recognition is not a technology that anybody needs to be scared of. It’s not there to take away somebody’s privacy. Facial recognition is there because we need to ensure that the bad guys are caught. But here in London, police have been trialling facial recognition and admitted that in some trials they misidentified criminals more than 90% of the time. Meaning innocent people were stopped by police for no reason. A United Nations investigator recently recommended an embargo on the sale of surveillance tech to countries worldwide. But his recommendations show no signs of being adopted by UN member states. More than 34,000 visitors from 117 countries came to this year’s IFSEC conference. According to IFSEC, the buyers had a combined budget of more than $28 billion. To stay on the story of the global use of authoritarian tech follow us at codastory.com

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