June 13, 2022 - 5:21pm

Chinese-made surveillance cameras, already installed throughout the UK, pose a major security and privacy threat according to a new report by Human Rights campaigning group Big Brother Watch.

The report describes how Chinese surveillance companies Hikvision and Dahua have dominated the CCTV market in the UK, with 60% of public sector buildings using their cameras, including high-level government offices. 

The group concludes that “both companies have track records of significant cybersecurity problems and glitches that could put the privacy of individuals and organisations at risk”. The Chinese government, via state-owned companies and their subsidiaries, is the controlling shareholder of Hikvision ‘despite the company claiming it is independent’. Leaked data from the UK to the CCP could pose a major security risk, especially after evidence emerged that Hikvision equipment installed at the national broadcaster was communicating with servers in China.

The issue extends into educational establishments. Freedom of information requests reveal that 53.8% of higher education bodies in the UK use Chinese-made CCTV. Of the schools surveyed for the report, 40 used cameras with facial recognition capabilities and 14 had demographic detection, such as age and gender, and 17 had thermal surveillance.

Big Brother Watch raise ethical questions about how this surveillance is being used within China itself. Both Hikvision and Dahua have been accused of providing equipment to guard government-run concentration camps in Xinjiang. ‘Uyghur detection’ settings on the cameras can be used to racially profile citizens and alert police officers. 

UnHerd’s Florence Read spoke to Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, to find out more.