What happened: Some of the US’s oldest and most prestigious institutions are funding SenseTime and Megvii, two of China’s largest surveillance tech companies, a Buzzfeed analysis of investment data has found. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Alaska Retirement Board hold limited partnerships with private equity funds which have invested in the two companies. Buzzfeed also reported that another dozen US universities, retirement plans, and charitable foundations including the Mayo Clinic and Princeton and Duke Universities contributed to some of SenseTime and Megvii’s sky-high funding rounds through a Chinese venture capital firm called Qiming Ventures.
Why it’s important: China’s use of surveillance technology has aroused international scrutiny, especially with regards to minorities. Such criticisms have been common in Washington in the past year. Last week, The New York Times reported that Hikvision, a Chinese manufacturer of video surveillance equipment and software, could join Huawei in Washington’s trade blacklist, in part because of its alleged human rights violations. SenseTime and Megvii products are used in commercial authentication products but also by Chinese law enforcement.