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GOT THEIR EYES ON YOU

India is among the biggest users of Chinese surveillance cameras

A bird sits atop a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera pole at a traffic intersection in New Delhi
REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee
Bird’s eye view.
  • Manavi Kapur
By Manavi Kapur

Culture and lifestyle reporter

The Indian government has banned 267 Chinese apps, including the wildly popular TikTok and PUBG, fearing a threat to national security. But the country remains one of the largest users of Chinese surveillance cameras in the world.

India ranks sixth in the list of countries with the most number of Hikvision and Dahua surveillance camera networks, according to a Dec. 4 analysis by Top10VPN, a publication focused on internet privacy.

The two companies “have enjoyed stratospheric growth to become the world’s biggest video surveillance companies despite repeated allegations of enabling systematic human rights abuses in China, Top10VPN said. “Both companies have also been accused of posing significant privacy and security risks to citizens around the world due to their links with the Chinese Communist Party.”

In this context, the use of these surveillance cameras highlights a jarring inconsistency in the Narendra Modi government’s strong stance against Chinese apps and China-made products, which it believes are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”

In all, Top10VPN estimates nearly 2 million cameras from these two Chinese manufacturers are in use outside China.

Both Hikvision and Dahua, leading Chinese manufacturers of video surveillance equipment, have been accused of abetting the repression of the Uyghur ethnic minority in China.

For this reason, and for fears of Chinese espionage, the US Congress banned and blacklisted both companies in the US in 2018. This was a result of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission report, which warned, “Through IoT products and services, Chinese firms may be transferring data from their US consumers to China, where the government retains expansive powers to collect and exploit data with little regard for privacy or ownership concerns.”

Yet, the US has the highest number of Dahua and Hikvision cameras in the world.

Both Hikvision and Dahua have claimed that they strictly adhere to international rules and company standards, without specifying what those standards are. Besides the US, concerns over Hikvision’s and Dahua’s role in suppressing ethnic minorities has been called into question in Norway and the UK.

Top10VPN’s analysis is based on a network of cameras that use the same IP address. “As networks tend to comprise multiple devices, the total number of individual Hikvision and Dahua surveillance cameras covered by this report will likely be many times higher than 2 million,” it said in the report.

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