US adds Chinese AI and facial recognition companies to entity list’

The US government has added eight firms specialising in facial recognition to the so-called ‘entity list’ of foreign firms which are banned from trading with US companies.

The US Department of Commerce has ruled that the companies were complicit in “implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

You may recall that the recent hack discovered for iOS devices was specifically aimed at these religious groups and is widely suspected to be the work of the Chinese government.

Two further firms, specialising in artificial intelligence (AI) have also made the list, along with one voice recognition firm, a voice recognition company and a  nanotech startup.

One of the firms, Hikvision, told Bloomberg: “Punishing Hikvision, despite these engagements, will deter global companies from communicating with the US government, hurt Hikvision’s US businesses partners and negatively impact the US economy.”

Under the ruling, any US company that wants to do business with those on the list has to apply for a licence to sidestep the ban. As you may recall, this is the same situation that Huawei’s partners find themselves in and as yet no licences have even been issued.

Bloomberg estimates that two of the companies, the aforementioned Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co, have up to a third of the video surveillance sector wrapped up and are already in situ in hundreds of cities all over the world.

The timing of the move, just a few days ahead of the latest talks aimed to end the “good and easy to win” trade war with China, now in the better part of its second year, might seem a bit inflammatory, but the US government is clear that this has everything to do with national security and nothing to do with the trade war.

Though we suspect the trade war probably has a bit to do with it, really.

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