The government of US blacklists Chinese cameras because they are products of Hikvision. It is the same company that got accusations of violating human rights most severely. However, schools and Leisure centers all across the UK are still using these cameras. The use of Chinese surveillance cameras was a topic of discussion in the British Parliament last year itself. Despite raising several alarms, there is a rise in the use of cameras in the UK, especially during the pandemic.
Earlier, the US government brought allegations against Hikvision cameras of monitoring Muslim minorities and Chinese Uighurs who are now staying in internment camps. Intelligence experts in the US also believe that these Chinese cameras are acting as spies. These may be devices that China is using to acquire information of individuals who are staying outside China. Amidst all of these allegations and implications, finally, the US blacklists Chinese cameras completely from Hikvision.
Now that the US blacklists Chinese cameras, James Lewis points out the justification regarding the possibility of data violation by Hikvision. He says that there is every chance in which China will try to extra-territorialize its surveillance condition. If China can use such surveillance technologies to keep an eye on their people, they can do the same for the rest of the world. Lewis is a researcher at the Washington DC’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The US blacklists Chinese cameras: Hikvision denies all allegations
On the other hand, Hikvision denies all of these allegations. They are stating that all the allegations are baseless and have no proof to justify them. According to them, none of the evidence that they collect through their surveillance services goes to Beijing. Now, the UK also wants to deploy Hikvision, and they seem to do it without any prior notice. However, according to public records, several places in the UK are still using these devices. For example, Kensington, Mole Valley Council, Chelsea, Coventry Council, Guilford Council, and Chelmsford are some places that still use the cameras.
On the contrary, the UK luxury gym chain, Leisure’s owner David Lloyd says that he supports the deployment of Hikvision. Lloyd says that he is entirely intolerant when it comes to modern slavery. So, he has also started deploying thermal Hikvision cameras from a few of his gyms. It is a part of the safety protocol list of COVID-19. It seems that both the US and British governments are coming into an agreement regarding human rights violations and Chinese surveillance concerns.
Hikvision surveillance cameras still in use in the UK
According to UK’s public records, Hikvision cameras are installed in Smithdon High School, Hunstanton, West Norfolk. The school authorities say that they require cameras to ensure the personal and health safety of the students. Apart from that, the cameras also help them to prevent damage and vandalism. Earlier in February, Hikvision got an invitation from the Home Office for attending a policing and security trade fair. The invitation comes just a couple of months after the US governments ban the use of Chinese cameras, mostly from Hikvision entirely.
Although Hikvision cameras are still in use in the US, the company found a spot of last year’s list of entities under the Department of Commerce of the US. It brings Hikvision under a prohibition from purchasing any components and parts from US-based companies. They can only do the same if they have a special license stating permission. Pentagon includes Hikvision in the list of companies run by the Chinese military. However, the company denies all such allegations and claims. As per reports from the UK last year, over 1.2 million Hikvision cameras were in use. A spokesperson confirms the use of such cameras but says that they were unaware of the allegations at the procurement time.
Hikvision’s part of the story
According to an official statement by Hikvision, the spokesperson says that they take reports of human rights violations very seriously. Besides, they take every possible step to identify loopholes and protect the rights of people. The spokesperson adds that their management team is continually trying to engage with the US and UK governments. It is an initiative from their end to clarify misunderstandings about Hikvision. Moreover, they want to understand the governments’ concerns and come to a solution at the earliest.
Hikvision says that their constant focus remains on technology, customer services, and leadership, adhering to all cybersecurity rules. The same undergo a rigorous certification process. Therefore, adhering to such protocols already prove their authenticity. On the other hand, a London-based digital rights researchers say otherwise. According to Samuel Woodhams, surveillance companies, including Hikvision, are trying to take advantage of the pandemic.
They are using it to expand their reach across the UK. Woodhams warns businesses and public authorities to be aware of such nuances. It is because once introduced. Such actions are difficult to reverse. Moreover, they end up causing permanent damages to individual liberties.