Another Chinese tech company could be facing international backlash after bidding on a support contract for New Zealand’s new police facial recognition system. The Inspur Group was one of 20 companies that appeared on a Pentagon list of companies that are owned or controlled by the Chinese military, which makes its interest in a national facial recognition system a potential security concern as tensions rise between the US and China.
The New Zealand database will have more than 1.5 million images when it debuts. After that, law enforcement officials expect to add 50,000 new images to the system on an annual basis. The database will include fingerprints and photos of scars and tattoos in addition to faces.
The 10-year contract ultimately went to the US-based DataWorks Plus, which beat out Inspur and two other companies. Inspur is the largest server manufacturer in China (and the third largest in the world), and currently provides cloud data services for Chinese law enforcement.
For Inspur, the failed bid could become a problem if it draws more attention to its activities on the global stage. Huawei also appeared on the Pentagon list, and has dominated the headlines thus far. However, Intel suspended all product deliveries to Inspur in July, and the company will be open to further sanctions in the US and elsewhere as long as it remains on the list. The UK, for example, has already ordered the removal of all Huawei 5G technology from the country due to that company’s presence on the list.
In the meantime, it is worth noting that there may be growing international opposition to any police facial recognition system. While New Zealand police have claimed that they will be the only people with access to the system, those assurances are unlikely to alleviate the concerns of those worried about racial bias, false arrests, and invasive mass surveillance practices.
September 16, 2020 – by Eric Weiss