Intel, Nvidia queried about computer chips they sold to China . . .
On Tuesday, U.S. legislators sent letters to the CEOs of Intel Corp and Nvidia Corp to determine whether they knew that their computer chips were being used to power the Urumqi Cloud Computing Centre. The centre monitors faces, phones, and behaviour in the Xinjiang province of China. The province is home to approximately 12 million Uyghurs, a Muslim-minority that has faced large-scale repression by the Chinese state in the form of forced labour and detention centres. Intel and Nvidia originally sold the chips to Sugon, a Chinese company that produces military and security technology and computers for various companies. It is unclear whether the American companies were aware their technology would be used to support the computer centre.
Other surveillance tech spurs outrage . . .
Mass surveillance is not a recent phenomenon in China, but observers are drawing attention to technology's role in allowing the state to detain and suppress minority groups. It was recently discovered that Huawei and Megvii, a tech company that designs facial-recognition software, developed a system in 2019 that notifies government officials when street cameras identified Uyghurs. Furthermore, earlier today, a prisoner list was leaked from a detention camp in Xinjiang, which highlights the role of ‘predictive policing’ in detaining young Uyghurs and revealed that many had been imprisoned despite lawful behaviour.
Implications for Western companies . . .
As awareness of the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs continues to spread, Western companies can expect increased scrutiny and backlash against business practices that have contributed to, or worsened, the situation. Earlier this year, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released a report that revealed 83 multinational corporations, including prominent brands such as Apple, Nike, and Bombardier, used factories in China suspected of employing Uyghur forced labour. Many companies were forced to review their suppliers' labour policies or cut ties with them altogether as a result of consumer outrage. Tech companies will want to consider the use of their products and technologies when selling or licencing to users that are documented human rights abusers.
- The Guardian: ‘Being young’ leads to detention in China’s Xinjiang region
- The New York Times: China’s surveillance state sucks up data. U.S. tech is key to sorting it.
- The Washington Post: Huawei tested AI software that could recognize Uighur minorities and alert police, report says