China and Huawei are the world's leading suppliers of AI surveillance technology, according to a Carnegie report
Huawei at IFA in Berlin, 2018. (Wikipedia)
Under the auspices of the Chinese government, Huawei and other Chinese firms have sold AI surveillance technology to over 60 countries worldwide.
In a new report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, researchers have identified 75 countries that currently use AI-enabled surveillance. These technologies often come in the form of "Safe City" systems made up of facial recognition cameras, or "Smart Policing" technologies that claim to predict behavior and crime.
While the US, Japan, and others develop technologies for the advanced surveillance market, China is by far the largest player. And with the blessing and aid of the communist party, Chinese telecom companies pitch and in some cases give away surveillance infrastructure to countries around the globe.
Carnegie singles out Huawei for its outsized presence in the market, from its sales outreach to its willingness to help run the systems it installs.
"Huawei is not only providing advanced equipment but also offering ongoing technological support to set up, operate, and manage these systems," the report says.
The report also points to the seemingly unique relationship that Chinese firms have with the communist party government. Often, Chinese government banks supply loans to foreign governments for large security infrastructure projects, while requiring that the contracts go to Huawei or another Chinese firm.
From the report:
Huawei is directly pitching the safe city model to national security agencies, and China’s Exim Bank appears to be sweetening the deal with subsidized loans. The result is that a country like Mauritius obtains long-term financing from the Chinese government, which mandates contracting with Chinese firms. The Mauritian government then turns to Huawei as the prime contractor or sub-awardee to set up the safe city and implement advanced surveillance controls.
Huawei appears to be aggressively marketing its products in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and Central Asia.
China's giant, data-rich population and government-run economy make it a unique competitor in the global AI development race.