A Japanese IT company that provides the US government with biometric technologies used to target immigrant communities.
NEC Corporation is an information technology (IT) company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, specializing in automated detection and surveillance using artificial intelligence (AI). Its "Safer Cities" surveillance suite creates massive databases that integrate biometrics with national IDs, citywide video feeds, drone surveillance feeds, and "crowd behavior analysis" to "predict crime." The company reported 2020 annual revenue of $28.1 billion and has over 110,000 employees worldwide.
NEC is one of three main suppliers of biometric technologies in the U.S., alongside IDEMIA and Thales subsidiary Gemalto. It provides face and iris matching algorithms for DHS' main biometric database, Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), which, as of 2021, is being upgraded to a larger and more advanced database called Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System (HART).
Designed by Northrop Grumman, HART collects and analyzes facial images, DNA profiles, iris scans, digital fingerprints, and voice prints. It sources this information from, and shares it with, other federal agencies, local law enforcement, and certain foreign governments. DHS acknowledges there is "a risk that HART facial image matching results may be inaccurate or result in a disproportionate impact to certain populations" having to do with "gender, race and age."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents collect biometric information in the field during their raids and other enforcement operations using NEC's NeoScan fingerprint device. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses the company's facial recognition technology, NeoFace, for its biometric Entry-Exit program, which collects biographic and biometric data from people crossing the border at airports and other ports of entry.
From 2005 to 2021, DHS awarded NEC Corporation 12 contracts for biometric technologies worth a combined $18.7 million. These contracts included maintaining DHS's existing NEC biometrics equipment and acquiring NEC's portable "forensic-grade fingerprint, palm print, facial and iris" scanners.
NEC's automated fingerprint identification systems accounted for 30% of all such systems used by U.S. law enforcement in 2017.
Its facial recognition technology was also used by police in three cases of Black men wrongfully accused of crimes they did not commit in Detroit and New Jersey, as the underlying algorithm for facial recognition provided by contractor DataWorks Plus. Studies have shown facial recognition to contain inherent racial and gender biases.
In addition, as part of its surveillance suite, NEC offers a product called CONNECT, a police platform that helps law enforcement agencies manage investigations and arrests, and track people in their custody or moving through the legal system.
Although NEC Corporation is headquartered in Japan, it spent $2.7 million on lobbying expenses in the U.S. from 2007 to 2021. It has lobbied on a number of issues, such as DHS' border and biometrics security programs, facial recognition technology, and DHS federal budgets.