China IS Watching You – How Worried Should You Be?

As China continues to increase their market share of surveillance camera systems and develop its AI technology, can the power China holds over us really be ignored?

Hikvision Surveillance Cameras

Wherever you live in America, it is extremely likely you have been watched by one of China’s best-selling surveillance cameras, Hikvision. 

Supplying more than 12% of the North American market, Hikvision cameras loom over our apartment blocks, hotels, recreation areas and offices, from Washington to Wyoming.

Strong Connection to the Chinese Government

Hikvision originally started out as a state-run company, and still has scarily close connections to Communist leaders in China. 

The largest shareholder, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), is tightly bound to the Chinese military and the company has further strengthened its ties with leaders since it was publicly listed. 

In 2015, the Chinese government ensured that Hikvision secured $3 billion in investment and credit. 

Worldwide Sales

Producing hundreds of thousands of units per day, Hikvision now provides more than a quarter of the world’s surveillance cameras to more than 150 countries. 

Low cost units have catapulted their sales and penetrated our streets and buildings with Chinese-made technology. 

Foreign governments appeared to welcome the opportunity to monitor their own citizens under the guise of safety, reducing crime and defending national security. 

But have they unwittingly or knowingly put their citizens at more risk?

‘Understand Your Every Move’

The company makes no secret of their motto to ‘Understand your every move’ with products such as fitness bands, doorbell cameras, phones and gadgets. 

All from as little as $35 a pop, how could we resist?

What we don’t yet know is the extent to which our privacy and security could be compromised using such devices. Smart homes may be efficient, but could be a cybersecurity black hole. 

Long gone are the days of planting a bug in someone’s home to listen in. Devices with the ability to track and monitor our daily habits and preferences are voluntarily and willingly installed in our homes and carried in our pockets. 

Surveilling ourselves and those around us is practically an obsession for most of us. 

US Issued Warnings

Little has changed since US officials warned of the dangers of these devices and the mass of data China is collecting about US citizens. 

The US National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) responded to new Chinese Laws allowing the country to collect more data, which could impact China’s national security, ironically. 

Experts denounced the laws as ambiguous and feared “any document, data or items” could be deemed a threat by China and put Americans privacy at risk. 

Through location tracking, accessing networks, cameras and audio – Chinese tech firms could be collecting priceless information about foreign markets and national security for their own benefit. 

BBC Uncovered Vulnerabilities in UK Documentary

A recent BBC programme, shone a light on the millions of Chinese surveillance devices in use in the UK. Not only watching the streets, but present in government buildings and military offices. 

During the programme, industry experts openly criticized the UK government for allowing Hikvision cameras into the Home Office and for considering national security and citizen safety as an afterthought to a bargain-buy. 

Spy Balloon Was the Tip of the Iceberg

Back in February, when a Chinese owned spy balloon was shot down over the US, it sparked outrage from everyday Americans yet yielded a barely lukewarm response from the  current government. 

In fact, China condemned the US government for its use of force in eventually shooting down the device after days hovering in US airspace. 

Are those governing us really doing enough to protect our freedoms?

Technological Advances In Development 

Hikvision training courses give an insight into products in development and enable companies to install their technology. 

Facial recognition, intrusion detection and more worryingly, ‘people counting’ and heat mapping can be used to monitor crowds and gatherings of people in public. 

What Hivision fails to mention in their training programmes, are any references to human rights issues, nor any mention of possible violation or risk to privacy. 

Falsely Identifying Black Suspects of Crime

In the US, there have been cases of mistaken identity using Hikvision facial-recognition devices. Three black men were arrested in 2020, because of false identification through this technology. 

Hikvision’s facial-recognition systems have been proven to be most accurate on East Asian people, and most likely to error on those of African origin. 

Adding to Concerns About TikTok and Huawei 

The US have been in private talks with video app, TikTok, after worrying concerns that the app was manipulating user data to alter algorithms to control what viewers see. 

In 2022, the FBI investigated tech giant, Huawei, finding that the company’s technology could be used to disrupt military activity and communication related to nuclear powers. 

Should You Be Worried? 

1 in 4 Americans describe China as ‘an enemy’ not a friend; a considerable shift in suspicion and animosity towards the country compared to 5 years ago. 

The FBI website states: 

The counterintelligence and economic espionage efforts emanating from the government of China and the Chinese Communist Party are a grave threat to the economic well-being and democratic values of the United States. (www.fbi.gov)

At the same time, China continues to strive to be the world’s leading superpower in business, technology, intellectual property, AI and cyber presence; lurking in our institutions, public places and even our living rooms. 

So surely, if the FBI are worried, you should be?

Are you worried we are being watched? Is the Government doing enough? Leave your comment.

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