China’s Tencent keeps an eye on Western technology companies

Chinese companies are keeping close tabs on the successes and public missteps of leading technology companies.

An article published on the official WeChat channel of Tencent Digital — the world’s largest gaming and social media company— wonders Is facial recognition technology good or bad for technology companies? The post discusses the ethical dilemmas involved with the development and use of facial recognition technology by major companies outside of China, drawing on a wide range of international media sources with an emphasis on material that considers the opinion and thought leadership of major foreign tech companies.

There have been countless mistakes in facial recognition technology over the past decade, but this does not mean that the technology will not move toward more accurate and less biased directions. — Tencent Digital

The article attempts to summarize the positions that companies including Google, Salesforce, Microsoft and IBM have taken towards ethical implementation of facial recognition technology, dividing them broadly into two groups based on recent developments — those who are “cautious” and those who are “less cautious.”

Examples of recent decisions taken by these companies are discussed, such Amazon’s supplying its product Rekognition to law enforcement agencies (a less cautious move), and Microsoft cancelling a contract to provide artificial intelligence tools for US immigration and customs (a more cautious), and Google’s overall stance is considered “very cautious about the technologies and policies related to facial recognition.”

The article presents a balanced discussion, noting that even without considering the ethical issues, “the accuracy of facial recognition technology remains to be considered” due to technical limitations. “All technology is a double edged sword” after all, the article concludes, so its development ought to be carefully considered by all parties involved.

The world’s largest digital gaming company, Tencent Digital, is based and owned in China.

This article — whether read as a piece of public relations propaganda or not — is important because of what it says about the general tone of discussions happening amongst China’s leading technology companies. Interestingly, and tellingly, it references Western international companies as examples only, and fails to comment on any Chinese FRT company decisions, actions or policies.

-Post by Zoe Rose Hatten