The Australian Defense Department is taking action to remove surveillance cameras and systems developed and manufactured by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua from its buildings. The move follows similar decisions by the United States and Britain, as concerns mount over the potential security risks posed by these companies, which are partly owned by China’s Communist Party-ruled government.
An audit conducted by the Australian government revealed that cameras and security equipment made by these companies were found in nearly every government department, excluding the Agriculture Department and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. In response, the Defense Minister, Richard Marles, stated that the department was assessing all its surveillance technology and that “where those particular cameras are found, they’re going to be removed”.
The War Memorial and National Disability Insurance Agency have also announced their intention to remove any Chinese cameras found at their sites. This decision was prompted by opposition cybersecurity spokesman James Paterson, who conducted an audit by asking questions of each federal agency over the course of six months.
Paterson called for a plan from the government to “rip every one of these devices out of Australian government departments and agencies,” citing concerns that sensitive information, images, and audio collected by these devices could be secretly sent back to China against the interests of Australian citizens. Both companies are subject to China’s National Intelligence Law, which requires them to cooperate with Chinese intelligence agencies.
The U.S. government banned the use of telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from several prominent Chinese brands, including Hikvision and Dahua, in November, as part of its efforts to protect the nation’s communications network. Britain followed suit, banning the use of security cameras made by Hikvision in government buildings.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia has not yet responded to a request for comment, but China has generally defended their high-tech companies as good corporate citizens that follow all local laws and play no part in government or party intelligence gathering.
Regardless, the Australian Defense Department’s decision to remove surveillance cameras and systems made by Chinese companies demonstrates a growing concern over the potential security risks posed by these companies. The government is taking steps to ensure that sensitive information remains protected and to safeguard the interests of its citizens.