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US blacklists Chinese AI startups

Facial recognition
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The US government has expanded its Entity List by adding a number of China's top AI startups including several firms which specialise in facial recognition.

In total, 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including the video surveillance firm Hikvision and facial recognition firms SenseTime and Megvii have been added to the US blacklist.

These firms will no longer be able to buy components from US companies without direct approval from the US government in much the same way that Washington tried to limit the influence of Huawei due to national security reasons.

The ongoing trade war between China and the US has already lasted 15 months but US officials have said that adding these Chinese AI startups and facial recognition firms to its Entity List is not tied to the resumption of trade talks between the two countries.

Trade talk leverage

In a recent filing, the Commerce Department explained why it decided to add these new firms to its blacklist, saying:

“These entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the XUAR.”

China responded by telling the US to stop meddling in its affairs and foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that the country will continue to take firm and resolute measures to protect its sovereign security.

Hikvision said that it “strongly opposes” the Commerce Department's decision and that in January, the firm hired a human rights expert and former US ambassador to advise it on human rights compliance. A spokesperson for the company explained that the decision will end up hurting the US economy, saying:

“Punishing Hikvision, despite these engagements, will deter global companies from communicating with the U.S. government, hurt Hikvision’s U.S. businesses partners and negatively impact the U.S. Economy.” 

By adding these Chinese AI startups and surveillance firms to the Commerce Department's Entity List, the US could be hoping to gain the upper hand in trade talks with China or perhaps we may finally see federal regulation in regard to the deployment of facial recognition technology.

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Via Reuters