Technology giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has facial recognition technology which can specifically pick out members of China’s Uighur minority, surveillance industry researcher IPVM said in a report.
For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app
Alibaba itself said it was “dismayed” a unit developed software which can tag ethnicity in videos, and that the feature was never intended to be deployed to customers.
The report comes as human rights groups accuse China of forcing over 1 million Muslim Uighurs into labor camps in the region of Xinjiang, and call out firms suspected of complicity.
China running 380 Uighur detention centers in Xinjiang region: Think tank
China has demolished thousands of mosques in Uighur region of Xinjiang: Report
China says US senators telling ‘lies’ over Uighur genocide statements
China has repeatedly denied forcing anyone into what it has called vocational training centers, and has also said Xinjiang is under threat from Islamist militants.
Still, sensitivities have prompted caution among Chinese internet firms which often self-censor to avoid running afoul of a government which strictly controls online speech, and which last month published draft rules to police livestreaming.
US-based IPVM in a report published on Wednesday said software capable of identifying Uighurs appears in Alibaba’s Cloud Shield content moderation service for websites.
Alibaba describes Cloud Shield as a system that “detects and recognizes text, pictures, videos, and voices containing pornography, politics, violent terrorism, advertisements, and spam, and provides verification, marking, custom configuration and other capabilities.”
An archived record of the technology shows it can perform such tasks as “glasses inspection,” “smile detection”, whether the subject is “ethnic” and, specifically, “Is it Uighur”.
Consequently, if a Uighur livestreams a video on a website signed up to Cloud Shield, the software can detect that the user is Uighur and flag the video for review or removal, IPVM researcher Charles Rollet told Reuters.
IPVM said mention of Uighurs in the software disappeared near the time it published its report.
Alibaba in a statement said it was “dismayed” that Alibaba Cloud developed facial recognition software that includes ethnicity as an attribute for tagging video imagery, and that it never intended the software to be used in this manner. The feature was “trial technology” not intended for customers.
Alibaba did not mention Uighurs in its statement.
“We have eliminated any ethnic tag in our product offering,” an Alibaba spokeswoman told Reuters.
Alibaba is listed on both the New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges. It is the biggest cloud computing vendor in China and the fourth worldwide, showed data from researcher Canalys.
Earlier this month, US lawmakers sent letters to Intel Corp and Nvidia Corp following reports of their computer chips being used in the surveillance of Uighurs.
China criticizes pope over comment on suffering by Uighur Muslim minorityChina criticized Pope Francis on Tuesday over a passage in his new book in which he mentions suffering by China’s Uighur Muslim minority group.For all ... World News
China says US senators telling ‘lies’ over Uighur genocide statementsChina on Wednesday accused US senators of telling “all kind of lies” after a group of lawmakers put forward a resolution accusing Beijing of genocide ... World News
US says no justification for China’s ‘concentration camps’ for Uighur MuslimsThe deputy White House national security adviser on Friday denounced China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, saying there was no justification for the ... World News
China dismisses report saying Uighur children being separated from parents is ‘farce’The foreign ministry in Beijing on Friday dismissed as a “farce” a news report saying that China is separating ethnic Uighur children from their ... World News
China has demolished thousands of mosques in Uighur region of Xinjiang: ReportChinese authorities have demolished thousands of mosques in Xinjiang, an Australian think tank said Friday, in the latest report of widespread human ... World News
China running 380 Uighur detention centers in Xinjiang region: Think tankChina’s network of detention centers in the northwest Xinjiang region is much bigger than previously thought and has been expanded in recent years, ... World News
China’s FM defends Uighur Muslim detention campsChina’s foreign minister defended Uighur Muslim detention camps in Xinjiang on Sunday, brushing off human rights concerns by European countries and ... World News
France’s Macron expresses concern for China’s treatment of Uighurs, Hong KongFrench President Emmanuel Macron expressed strong concerns about the situation in Hong Kong and human rights for China’s Muslim Uighur minority during ... World News