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Huawei’s Claims That It Makes Cities Safer Mostly Look Like Hype

A report suggests the company’s surveillance networks aren’t as effective, or widespread, as it says.
relates to Huawei’s Claims That It Makes Cities Safer Mostly Look Like Hype
Illustration: Nichole Shinn for Bloomberg Businessweek

Islamabad’s Emergency Command Center, located in a blast-resistant building on a highway outside Pakistan’s capital, has a video wall with 72 screens for 1,950 surveillance cameras. Completed in 2016 at a cost of about $100 million, it’s the nexus for one of Huawei Technologies Co.’s global network of Safe City projects.

Yet murders, kidnappings, and burglaries in Islamabad all rose in 2018 from the previous year, and total crime was up 33%, according to data from Pakistan’s National Police Bureau. That may have something to do with half the cameras being out of order, according to a legislative committee. But the same pattern of rising crime holds true in the rest of the country, where eight cities have contracted with the Chinese company for similar digital-policing technology. Crime is up 11% nationwide since 2015, when the first projects were announced. Islamabad police didn’t respond to requests for comment.