At China’s Internet Conference, a Darker Side of Tech Emerges
WUZHEN, China — Every year at the earth Internet Conference, held since 2014 inside the photogenic canal town of Wuzhen near Shanghai, companies as well as government officials have convened to send a message: China is usually a high-tech force to be reckoned with.
With that will message currently settled beyond much doubt, This kind of year’s conference showcased something different. China’s tech industry is usually becoming more serious about grappling with its products’ unintended consequences — as well as about helping the government.
Discussions of technology’s promise were leavened with contemplation of its darker side effects, such as fraud as well as data breaches. A forum on protecting personal information featured representatives coming from China’s highest prosecutor as well as its powerful internet regulator. as well as several tech companies pledged their support for Beijing’s counterterrorism efforts, even as China faces international criticism for detaining as well as indoctrinating Muslims inside the name of fighting terrorism inside the western region of Xinjiang.
“Tencent has been dedicated to dealing with terrorist information online as well as various other internet crimes, in line with the government’s crackdown,” Chen Yong, an executive in Tencent’s security management department, said at the event.
The conference, which ends Friday, also reflected some brand new challenges facing China. This kind of was held at the same time as another big event: a six-day import expo in Shanghai aimed at showing China as a big buyer of foreign goods. With American tariffs threatening to slow a weakening Chinese economy, the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, spoke at the expo on Monday to proclaim that will China could be a positive force in global trade.
At Wuzhen, by contrast, Mr. Xi appeared only by proxy. The head of the Communist Party’s propaganda department, Huang Kunming, conveyed a message of thanks coming from Mr. Xi as well as then delivered an opening address that will extolled the earth-changing power of internet access.
Emissaries coming from Silicon Valley were also in short supply. Last year, the speakers at Wuzhen included Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, as well as Sundar Pichai of Google. This kind of year, the sole Western tech executive to give a keynote address was Steve Mollenkopf, the chief executive of the chip maker Qualcomm.
His appearance served as a reminder of American firms’ ongoing travails in China, which could deepen as the two powers wrestle over high-tech supremacy. Qualcomm scrapped a $44 billion deal to buy a Dutch chip maker This kind of year after China’s antitrust authorities declined to approve This kind of, a move widely viewed as retaliation inside the trade war.
Among Chinese companies This kind of week, private enterprises showed off the ways in which they increasingly support as well as work with the government, while state-backed companies demonstrated they were not doomed to be tech laggards.
The Tencent executive, Mr. Chen, described in an interview the company’s relationship with law enforcement.
Political activists have reported being followed based on what they have said on WeChat. Chat records have turned up as evidence in court, fueling speculation about whether Tencent, the app’s developer, may be the source.
Mr. Chen said Tencent reports illegal activity discovered on its platforms to the government, after which authorities can request specific user information. Metadata describing when as well as where users logged into a Tencent app can be stored for up to six months, he said. however Mr. Chen denied that will the company gave law enforcement officials a back door through which they could freely peruse chat records as well as user data.
“We only store the content that will the law prescribes,” he said. “However long the law says to store This kind of, that will’s how long we store This kind of. Whatever the law says to store, that will’s what we store.”
inside the conference’s exhibition halls, there were lighter touches to be found. A company called Utry let loose several eager, if herky-jerky, robots that will followed people around on wheels, offering to carry their bags. Kuaishou, the maker of a well-liked video app, demonstrated its facial-recognition prowess by scanning visitors’ faces as well as then, within seconds, displaying who in its vast video library most resembled them. (The results varied.)
Facial recognition is usually a hot area in Chinese tech, providing the technology behind both funny video selfies as well as smart surveillance cameras. One company attending the conference is usually taking things a step further.
IrisKing, which is usually based in Beijing as well as has substantial state backing, started out out by producing iris-recognition software for coal mines. With their faces as well as fingertips covered in soot, miners needed another technology for clocking in as well as out of work.
currently, IrisKing’s tools also help identify refugees in Syria as well as recover trafficked children in China, said Wang Xintao, a marketing manager for the company.
The company has also started out working with the authorities in Xinjiang, Mr. Wang said. The goal? To have a database of the irises of all Xinjiang residents within two years, he said.