Covid tech is closely tied to China’s state watch

However, while the enthusiasm and intention to respond to it to protect workers in the absence of an effective U.S. national-level response is commendable, Chinese companies are also bound by forms of serious abuse. of human rights.

Dahua is a leading provider of “smart camp” systems experienced by Vera Zhou in Xinjiang (the company says its facilities are supported by technologies such as “computer vision systems, big data analytics and cloud computing”) . In October 2019, both Dahua and Megvii along with eight Chinese technology firms were put on a list that barred U.S. citizens from selling their products and services (the list, which is intended to prevent U.S. firms to provide non -U.S. firms considered a threat to national interests, prevented Amazon from selling Dahua, but not buying from them). BGI’s subsidiaries in Xinjiang are placed on the U.S. no -sales list July 2020.

Amazon’s purchase of the Dahua heat-mapping camera is reminiscent of an older era of the spread of global capitalism captured by historian Jason Moore’s memorable quote: “Behind Manchester stands the Mississippi.”

What does Moore mean by this? In his reading also of Friedrich Engels ’analysis of the textile industry that made Manchester, England, the most profitable, he saw that many aspects of the British Industrial Revolution would not have been possible without the cheap cotton made of slave labor in the United States. United States. Similarly, the ability of Seattle, Kansas City, and Seoul to respond as quickly as they did to the pandemic depends in part on Northwest China’s oppressive approach opening up a gap to train biometric surveillance algorithms.

Worker protections during the pandemic relied on the forgetfulness of college students like Vera Zhou. This means that the dehumanization of thousands of detainees and non -free workers has been ignored.

At the same time, Seattle also stood out ago Xinjiang.

Amazon has its own role in unchecked surveillance that unequally harms ethnic-diverse minorities given the partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target undocumented immigrants and its active lobbying efforts to support weak biometric surveillance regulation. More directly, Microsoft Research Asia, the so-called “cradle of Chinese AI,” has played a key role in the growth and development of both Dahua and Megvii.

China’s state funding, global discourse on terrorism, and U.S. industry training are three of the main reasons why a host of Chinese companies are now leading the world in the face and recognition of voice. This process was accelerated by a war on terrorism centered on placing Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Hui inside a complex digital and material enclosure, but this time it is now reaching the entire Chinese technology industry, where data -driven infrastructure systems create a fast digital enclosure across the country. , though not of the same size as Xinjiang.

China’s broad and rapid response to the pandemic has further accelerated this process by quickly implementing these systems and clarifying that. they worked. Because they expand the power of the state in such sweeping and intimate ways, they are effective in changing human behavior.

Alternative methods

The Chinese approach to the pandemic is not the only way to prevent it, though. Democratic states such as New Zealand and Canada, which provide probation, masks, and economic assistance to those forced to stay at home, are also effective. These countries make it clear that non -coercive vigilance is not the only way to protect the welfare of the majority, even at the national level.

In fact, numerous studies have shown that surveillance systems support systematic racism and dehumanization by making targeted populations inattentive. Past and present U.S. management of the use of the Entity List to stop the sale of companies such as Dahua and Megvii, although significant, has also created a double standard, penalizing Chinese companies for misconduct. automate racialization while funding American companies to do the same things.

A growing number of U.S.-based companies are trying to create their own algorithms to detect different phenotypes, even through a consumer-oriented approach to consent. By making automated racialization a form of convenience in marketing items like lipstick, companies like Revlon are hardening the technical scripts available to individuals.

As a result, in many ways the race goes on without thinking about how people interact with the world. Police in the United States and China are thinking of automated detection technologies as their tools to identify potential criminals or terrorists. Algorithms normally show that Black men or Uyghurs are not equally seen in these systems. They stop the police, and those they protect, from recognizing that surveillance is always about restraining and disciplining people who are not in the eyes of those in power. The world, not just China, has a problem with surveillance.

To prevent the increasing banality, the day-to-day, automated racialization, the harms of biometric surveillance around the world must first be clarified. The lives of the captive must be made visible on the edge of the power of life. Then the role of engineers who have invested in the world, invested, and companies with public relations in the mindless human experience, in planning for human re-education, needs to be clarified. Webs that connect — the way Xinjiang is behind and before Seattle — should be considered.

—This story is an edited excerpt from In the Camps: The High-Tech Penal Colony of China, by Darren Byler (Columbia Global Reports, 2021.) Darren Byler is an assistant professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University, focusing on technology and politics in China’s urban life.

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