Microsoft allegedly played a considerable role in developing a piece of software capable of facial analysis and other forms of data processing. This software is potentially used by the state to monitor, censor, and track content deemed inappropriate by the Government. The new software tool is an instrument that will help the Chinese government suppress its citizens, some experts warn.
Microsoft has been in partnership with the Chinese National University of Defense Technology, unsurprisingly funded and run by the Chinese military. Their latest project is a new technology that uses reflection mapping and analyzes human faces.
Some experts were concerned with the idea of giving one of the most oppressive governments a tool capable of finding opposition. One of the US politicians Marco Rubio noted that the cooperation between a US-based corporation and China is “deeply disturbing.”
Marco Rubio to the FinancialTimes.com:
“It is deeply disturbing that an American company would be actively working with the Chinese military to further build up the government’s surveillance network against its own people — an act that makes them complicit in aiding the Communist Chinese government’s totalitarian censorship apparatus and egregious human rights abuses…The Chinese government and Communist party poses a real and persistent threat to American national and economic security, as well as basic human freedoms. American companies must recognize this threat and rethink their role in aiding China.”
Beijing really loves its new toy and installed millions of cameras that are connected to the network that can recognize faces. The biggest testing hub was the western part of Xinjiang predominantly inhabited by Uighurs (over 11 million). Chinese authorities stated that this particular region has terrorist threats. To reduce such risks, the state installed several million face recognition cameras and ordered national big tech companies to spy on local citizens.
Independent news sources report that over a million of Uighurs were placed into prisons and detention camps. The news is not something shocking. China has been openly oppressive towards any internal opposition. Their politics and policies are criticized by many nations. Senator from Texas Ted Cruz said that “American companies must recognize this [Chinese] threat and rethink their role in aiding China.”
Microsoft responded to accusations and described their partnership with the Chinese military as a way to “advance their understanding of technology.” The company claims that they participate in research activities according to US and Chinese laws and do not stray away from their corporate principles. The company also argues that their cooperation will result in better technological advancements that can be used in the US.
Microsoft is one of the biggest software developers in the world and works with other companies and governments regularly.