Concerns have been raised about the CCTV system made by a company linked to the Chinese Communist Party being used around the Irish Parliament.
A human rights group has sent a letter this weekend to highlight qualms about the use of Hikvision surveillance cameras inside and outside the Houses of the Oireachtas in Dublin.
Hikvision has been banned in several Western jurisdictions and institutions because of security concerns. This week, Australia removed hundreds of the firm’s cameras from its defence sites due to issues relating to national security.
In November, the US government said it was banning telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from several prominent Chinese brands, including Hikvision, in an effort to protect its communications network.
In a letter to the Oireachtas commission this weekend, along with the political party leaders, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) raised concerns about the Chinese Communist Party being a controlling stakeholder in Hikvision, and said its devices in Italy had sent data back to China.
“In addition to the risk that cameras inside the Oireachtas may be reporting back to China, security researchers regularly find new security vulnerabilities that allow hackers to seize full control of various types of Hikvision cameras,” the ICCL’s technology fellow, Dr Kris Shrishak, said.
“Hackers can record what the cameras see and, potentially, what they hear.
“ICCL has directly observed Hikvision cameras inside the Oireachtas Buildings and about its grounds. The cameras are positioned at locations where they can capture video of TDs, senators and staff, and their private conversations. They may also capture what was said,” he added.
The ICCL also said that Hikvision is implicated in “grave” human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in the Chinese province of Xinjiang – claims which the company has previously denied.
The council has asked whether a security risk assessment, human rights risk assessment and data protection impact assessment were carried out on the use of Hikvision cameras, whether the assessments will be made public, and whether the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission will now “urgently” remove all Hikvision cameras and equipment.
Justice Minister Simon Harris said that he does not comment on security matters.
“I’m quite sure the authorities in Leinster House take the security of our national parliament very seriously,” he said.
Hikvision has been contacted for comment.