Chinese CCTV maker HikVision also hit by US security fears

A third Chinese company faces a possible boycott overseas amid fears in the West that certain communications and IT products are a security risk. HikVision, which makes closed-circuit television cameras, has been singled out as a company with a possible malignant intent to infiltrate the United States government and military. Surveillance cameras made by HikVision were removed from a US military base - Fort Leonard Wood in the state of Missouri - recently in a bid to allay public concerns.

The move went ahead despite the base's chief of staff telling the Wall Street Journal[1] the cameras from China "pose no threat" as they operated in a closed, self-contained network and had never been used in sensitive areas other than above roads leading to the base and its carparks. Like telecom giants Huawei and ZTE, it has become a target after US politicians voiced concerns about Chinese "conspirators" and "spy companies" operating under a veil of normal business transactions. HikVision ships more CCTV cameras than other competitors amid the rising need to install more surveillance systems to cope with terrorist and security threats worldwide.

US telecom carrier AT&T abruptly called off a deal recently to market Huawei's smartphones due to mounting misgivings on the part of US consumers and security agencies in Washington.

Bid to bar Huawei and ZTE from US govt deals

The Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency have voiced concerns about Huawei and ZTE's close ties with the People's Liberation Army, saying their infrastructure equipment and knowledge of foreign communications systems might aid cyber attacks. The two conglomerates may face a major setback if a bill[2] sponsored by Texas Republican Representative Mike Conaway, which seeks to bar the companies from bidding for US government procurements, is passed by the US Congress.

A file photo shows Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, at the headquarters of HikVision in Zhejiang in May 2015. Photo: Xinhua

HikVisions is more low key but also appears to be suffering under the "America First" campaign being trumpeted by US President Donald Trump. The Chinese government owns 42% HikVision shares according to the WSJ report, which says its cameras keep watch on streets, homes, military bases in the US, as well as US embassies and consulates overseas.

Chinese CCTV maker HikVision also hit by US security fears

An HikVision camera. It has also been reported that a US Congressional hearing on cyber-security has been scheduled on January 30, and security implications of HikVision's products will be a key issue.

In a statement sent to the Beijing-based Global Times, HikVision noted all the overseas reports on possible infiltration and electric espionage were based on "prejudice and conjecture" and led to misinformation about its products and services. The Zhejiang-based company said its products had been in use in 155 countries and jurisdictions, conforming to respective laws, safety standards and privacy ordinances, and there was no "backdoor" allowing access to any footage. In December, HikVisions unveiled with much fanfare a facial recognition system co-developed with Intel, which would allow users to unlock doors and make purchases in its products for commercial users and governments and law enforcement agencies to identify and track suspects in products and solutions for professional use.

Read more: Big brother is watching you in a nation of cameras [3] Must-reads from across Asia - directly to your inbox

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References

  1. ^ Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com)
  2. ^ bill (www.congress.gov)
  3. ^ Big brother is watching you in a nation of cameras (www.atimes.com)

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