US Money Funding Surveillance Tech in China

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Delta Air Lines reveals their new biometric face-detection technology at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Ga. on Wednesday, October 17, 2018. (Photo by Chris Rank, Rank Studios 2018)

US lawmakers are urging institutions to reevaluate their financial relationships with facial recognition companies operating in Xinjiang, China, in light of a BuzzFeed News investigation that found US public pension funds, universities, and foundations are funding two startups developing technology used in the surveillance of Chinese citizens.

Last month, BuzzFeed News reported that organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation, Princeton University, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public employee retirement fund, have helped fund SenseTime and Megvii, two leading Chinese facial recognition companies whose technology is used by the Chinese government to surveil its citizens.

“China uses its growing and unfettered access to America’s over $30 trillion capital markets to help finance its military threats, espionage, and egregious human rights abuses,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime critic of Chinese policies, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

“We must stop this, period.”

Using venture capital intelligence services and public disclosures, BuzzFeed News identified six prominent universities and 19 public pension plans or retirement systems that have an indirect interest in at least one of the two companies. There are likely more, since not all limited partners in venture or private equity firms are required to publicly disclose their investments.

While US officials have reportedly considered adding Megvii and SenseTime to the list of entities barred from buying parts and components from US companies without government approval, they have yet to act.

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