Covid technology is closely related to China’s surveillance status

However, despite the admirable speed and intent of this response to protect workers in the absence of an effective national response in the United States, these Chinese companies are also bound by forms of serious human rights violations.

Dahua is one of the main suppliers of the “smart camp” system that Zhou Weiwei experienced in Xinjiang (the company says its facilities are supported by technologies such as “computer vision systems, big data analysis, and cloud computing”). In October 2019, Dahua and Megvii Technology were both included in a list that prohibits U.S. citizens from selling goods and services to them (the list is designed to prevent U.S. companies from providing products and services to non-U.S. companies that are considered threats to U.S. citizens) Of the list. National interests prevent Amazon from selling to Dahua, but not buying from them).BGI’s subsidiary in Xinjiang is included in the U.S. trade ban list July 2020.

Amazon’s purchase of the Dahua heat map camera reminds me of an older moment in the spread of global capitalism, and a memorable sentence by historian Jason Moore captures this: “Behind Manchester is Mississippi. State.”

What does Moore mean? When rereading Friedrich Engels’ analysis of the textile industry that made Manchester, England so profitable, he saw that without the cheap cotton produced by American slave labor, many aspects of the British Industrial Revolution would not be possible. accomplish. In a similar way, the ability of Seattle, Kansas City, and Seoul to respond quickly to the pandemic depends in part on the way the oppression system in northwestern China opens up space for training biometric surveillance algorithms.

The protection of workers during the pandemic depends on forgetting college students like Zhou Weiwei. This means ignoring the dehumanization of thousands of detainees and unfree workers.

At the same time, Seattle is also invincible forward Xinjiang.

In view of Amazon’s cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency against undocumented immigrants and actively lobbying to support weak biometric monitoring and supervision, Amazon has played its own role in involuntary monitoring, which has caused disproportionate harm to minorities. . More directly, Microsoft Research Asia, known as the “cradle of artificial intelligence in China”, played an important role in the growth and development of Dahua and Megvii.

Chinese government funding, global terrorism discourse and U.S. industry training are the three main reasons why Chinese company fleets are now leading the world in facial and voice recognition. This process was accelerated by the war on terrorism. The core of the war was to place Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Huis within a complex fence of numbers and materials, but now it extends to the entire Chinese technology industry, where data-intensive infrastructure systems are included. Flexible digital fences are produced nationwide, although they are not as big as Xinjiang.

China’s extensive and rapid response to the pandemic has further accelerated the process by quickly implementing these systems and making it clear that They work. Because they extend state power in such a broad and intimate manner, they can effectively change human behavior.

alternative method

However, China’s response to the pandemic is not the only way to stop it. Democracies such as New Zealand and Canada provided testing, masks and financial assistance to those forced to stay at home, and they also played a role. These countries made it clear that even at the national level, involuntary surveillance is not the only way to protect the well-being of most people.

In fact, numerous studies have shown that surveillance systems support systemic racism and dehumanization by detaining target groups. The US government in the past and present used the entity list to stop sales to companies such as Dahua and Megvii. Although it was important, it also created a double standard that punishes Chinese companies for automating racialization, while funding US companies to do similar things.

More and more American companies are trying to develop their own algorithms to detect racial phenotypes, despite adopting a consumerist approach that presupposes consent. By making automated racialization a convenient form of marketing tools such as lipsticks, companies such as Revlon are strengthening the technical scripts available to individuals.

Therefore, in many ways, race is still an unconsidered part of people’s interaction with the world. The police in the United States and China regard automatic assessment technology as a tool to detect potential criminals or terrorists. These algorithms make it normal for these systems to detect blacks or Uighurs disproportionately. They prevent the police and the people they protect from realizing that surveillance is always about controlling and punishing people who do not meet the vision of those in power. The world, not just China, has surveillance problems.

In order to counteract the increasingly mediocre and routine phenomenon of automated racialization, the hazards of global biometric surveillance must first be clarified. The lives of detainees must be visible at the edge of life’s power. Then, it is necessary to clarify the role of world-class engineers, investors, and public relations companies in designing human re-education regardless of human experience. The interconnected network—the way Xinjiang stands before and before Seattle—must become imaginable.

——This story is an edited excerpt In the camp: China’s high-tech exile, Author: Darren Byler (Columbia Global Report, 2021) Darren Byler is an assistant professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University, focusing on the technology and politics of urban life in China.

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