Alibaba’s facial recognition technology can reportedly be used to identify members of China’s Uighur Muslim minority.
A new report from surveillance industry researcher IPVM says that Alibaba’s Cloud Shield software could be being used to specifically identify Uighurs, Reuters reported.
According to new research seen by the BBC, China is forcing thousands of Uighurs into hard manual labour in its cotton fields in Xinjiang, and is thought to have placed more than a million in detention camps throughout the region.
IPVM’s report cites an archived record of Alibaba’s Cloud Shield software, which shows it is able to perform tasks including “glasses inspection”, “smile detection”, whether the subject is “ethnic” and, specifically, “Is it Uighur”.
Alibaba’s Cloud Shield technology is used to detect and recognise “text, pictures, videos, and voices containing pornography, politics, violent terrorism, advertisements and spam”, and is able to flag any of this content for further inspection.
This means that if any Uighur livestreams a video on any websites using Alibaba’s software, it can be flagged, reviewed and removed.
The Chinese tech giant said the feature had only been used “in a testing environment”.
China has repeatedly denied that it is putting Uighurs into forced labour or detention camps, which it calls vocational training centres.
It comes as China stands accused of perpetrating a string of human rights abuses against the Uighurs, including forced sterilisation of women.