Alibaba facial recognition tech can specifically pick out Uighur minority, new report says

WION Web Team
Shanghai, China Published: Dec 17, 2020, 01:51 PM(IST)

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at the company's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, July 20, 2018. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

Surveillance industry researcher IPVM's report comes as human rights groups accuse China of forcing over 1 million Muslim Uighurs into labour camps, and call out firms suspected of complicity.

A new report claims that 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's report comes as human rights groups accuse China of forcing over 1 million Muslim Uighurs into labour camps, and call out firms suspected of complicity.

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.

IPVM said mention of Uighurs in the software disappeared near the time it published its report, and that Alibaba told it the feature has only been used "in a testing environment".

Alibaba describes Cloud Shield as a system that "detects and recognises 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.

Contrary to these findings, China has repeatedly denied forcing anyone into what it has called vocational training centres, and has also said the region of Xinjiang is under threat from Islamist militants.

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.

(with inputs)

Read in App