By IPVM Team, Published Dec 08, 2020, 10:44am EST
Huawei and Megvii worked together to test and validate Uyghur alarms, according to a Huawei “interoperability report” found by IPVM.
Huawei is the PRC’s biggest technology company and Megvii is one of the country’s largest facial recognition providers. Watch this 85-second video for an overview:
The document, marked ‘confidential’ was hosted publicly on Huawei’s own European website. Huawei deleted it shortly after IPVM reached out for comment.
We worked with The Washington Post which reported “Huawei tested AI software that could recognize Uighur minorities and alert police, report says.”
Dec. 11 UPDATE: A major French soccer player has “terminated” his Huawei partnership over this story, in an announcement to his 30m Instagram followers that was picked up all over the world. And the PRC Foreign Ministry has responded to this report, calling it, falsely, “purely slander” in a fax to CNBC. See at the end of this article for more details.
Dec. 15 UPDATE: The VP of Communications of Huawei Denmark, Tommy Zwicky, has resigned over this story, telling a Danish journalist in a now-deleted tweet that his resignation happened because he couldn’t explain the ‘Uyghur alarms’.
Test Report Background
Dated January 8, 2018, the report is titled “Huawei Video Cloud Solution and Megvii Dynamic Face Recognition Interoperability Test Report”:
The report summarizes that Huawei tested Megvii face recognition on Huawei’s video cloud infrastructure:
In this interoperability test, Huawei and Megvii jointly provided a face recognition solution based on Huawei’s video cloud solution. In the solution, Huawei provided servers, storage, network equipment, its FusionSphere cloud platform, cameras and other software and hardware, [while] Megvii provided its dynamic facial recognition system software
The report is marked “Huawei confidential, prohibited to spread without permission”, however, it was uploaded to Huawei’s website and publicly findable via Google Search:
“Uyghur Alarm” Among “Basic Functions”
The report lists dozens of “basic functions of Megvii’s facial recognition system” that Huawei “verified”, including “Uyghur alert”, which Megvii “passed”:
In a separate box, the report stated that Megvii’s software also “passed” being able to determine “ethnicity” as part of its “face attribute analysis”:
The test does not mention where this software is deployed. Huawei’s Marketplace offers a Megvii face recognition solution where it notes, “The two parties jointly conducted interoperability functional verification and completed the test” though no other information is provided to compare it to the test report found here.
Megvii is listed as a certified “Huawei Enterprise Partner” partner on Huawei’s website and Huawei says the firm’s facial recognition software is used to “prevent crime and create a harmonious social atmosphere”.
Uyghur Analytics Background
Uyghur analytics are popular in PRC police video surveillance networks, with IPVM identifying a dozen departments deploying the tech, which detects whether a face is Uyghur.
As IPVM has reported, the PRC’s three largest security camera manufacturers – Hikvision, Dahua, and Uniview – all offer this explicitly racist technology. In April 2019, the NYT identified Megvii along with several of its competitors as one of the firms offering Uyghur recognition.
Megvii & Huawei Uyghur Activities
In October 2019, Megvii was one of the PRC surveillance firms sanctioned by the US government for being “implicated in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance” against Uyghurs.
Huawei has been repeatedly sanctioned by the US government but not over Uyghur repression. However, “Huawei works directly with the Chinese Government’s Public Security Bureau [police] in Xinjiang on a range of projects”, Australian think tank ASPI has found, citing several Huawei smart city deals with Xinjiang police.
System Runs On NVIDIA Chips
The Huawei/Megvii document notes that NVIDIA Tesla P4 GPUs powered the system, praising their performance, saying “the NVIDIA Tesla P4 card can effectively boost the acceleration of deep learning algorithms.”
It is unknown if NVIDIA knew about this specific use case for its chips, which are freely available and which power other PRC police Uyghur detection systems.
In the past, NVIDIA has heavily promoted Tesla GPUs for China’s smart cities; in a now-deleted September 2017 NVIDIA blog post, NVIDIA wrote that “Huawei’s video content management (VCM) product is equipped with Tesla P4 GPU accelerators, improving overall performance by 22x.”
IPVM reached out to NVIDIA and will update if they respond.
Huawei, Megvii Response
Huawei responded to IPVM saying:
This report is simply a test and it has not seen real-world application. Huawei only supplies general-purpose products for this kind of testing. We do not provide custom algorithms or applications.
Huawei operates in compliance with the laws and regulations of all countries and regions where we operate, and only provides ICT products and solutions that meet recognized industry standards.
We asked Huawei how they are certain that this has ‘not seen real-world application’.
This software is legal inside of the PRC.
Huawei also deleted the document:
Megvii responded to IPVM saying:
Our solutions are not designed or customized to target or label ethnic groups. Our business is focused on the well-being and safety of individuals, not about monitoring any particular demographic groups.
They would not address the document itself, on the record.
Megvii Listed “AI Ethics Committee” Member Who Says Never Joined
However, Lagarrigue told IPVM that he never joined and had no relationship with Megvii:
No, I don’t have have any relationship with Megvii. I was never part of it. I was approached to join it mid-2019. But I declined the invitation later in the year, before that committee was ever assembled.
Huawei and Megvii’s collaboration on Uyghur alarms further proves that many large Chinese video surveillance/face recognition companies are deeply implicated in Uyghur repression. Anyone doing business with these firms should take note.
UPDATE: Soccer Star Quits Huawei Over Uyghur Alarms
French soccer star Antoine Griezmann and Barcelona forward announced to his 30m+ Instagram followers that he is terminating his sponsorship agreement with Huawei over the “Uyghur alarms” stating (translated from French):
Following strong suspicions that Huawei contributed to the development of ‘Uyghur alerts’ thanks to facial recognition software, I announce that I am terminating immediately my partnership linking me to this company.
I take this occasion to invite Huawei to not merely deny these accusations but to engage itself as soon as possible to take concrete actions to condemn this mass repression and use its influence to contribute to the respect of human rights at the heart of society.
Griezmann, 29, is not well-known in the US but internationally, he is well recognized as a top soccer player and joined Barcelona’s team (‘Barça’) for $135m last year, the sixth-largest sum for a player ever in soccer history. His Huawei sponsorship was significant because (unlike in the US) Huawei is a top provider of smartphones to Europe and a well-known brand there. Because of Griezmann and Barça’s celebrity, many outlets covered this decision such as BBC (UK), Le Monde (France), CNN Indonesia, Globo (Brazil), El Pais (Spain) etc.
In an official response, Huawei France stated it takes this “situation very seriously” and distanced itself from the ‘Uyghur alarm’:
Huawei takes this situation very seriously and wishes to bring some clarifications. We do not develop algorithms or apps in the field of facial recognition or solutions targeting ethnic groups. Huawei conceives technologies for general use that are founded on international norms in terms of artificial intelligence. Huawei is not implicated in the development of application layers which define the way in which this technology is used.
Our products and solutions vigorously conform to industry standards and regulations. Huawei perfectly and strictly respects the founding principals of the UN regarding business and human rights, and follows the laws of the 170 countries where it operates.
UPDATE: PRC Gov Claims “Pure Slander”
In a statement faxed to CNBC, the PRC’s Foreign Ministry called this report “purely slander”, adding that facial recognition in the PRC helps “strengthen social security” but is “not targeting any particular ethnic groups”:
I would like to emphasize, to use modern tech products and big data to improve social management is a general practice of international community, including countries in America and Europe
Legal use of facial recognition in public areas in some parts of China is to improve social management, effectively prevent and attack criminal acts. China doesn’t go any further than countries in America and Europe. And the measures are not targeting any particular ethnic groups
The measures strengthen social security, thus earn support from people of all ethnic groups
Contrary to the PRC’s claims, Huawei’s own signed report explicitly declares “Uyghur alarm” support.