A look at American companies supplying AI technology abroad: Palantir, IBM and Amazon

(Cory Doctorow/Flickr)

While Chinese AI companies have gained footholds across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, American firms operate AI systems in at least 32 countries, according to a Carnegie Endowment report.

The leading American AI surveillance provider abroad is IBM, followed by Palantir and Cisco.

IBM operates in 11 countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, India, and Israel. They regularly market "Smart City" technology to governments abroad, which involves urban center sensor and camera systems. These kinds of projects also include network infrastructure to analyse and monitor incoming data, be it security footage, temperature readings, and public transportation statuses.

Palantir, a data company founded by Peter Thiel, works in at least 9 countries including Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay. While they are known to work with government security agencies, they've also signed enterprise contracts with companies like Airbus and Merck to improve their business operations.

Palantir also recieved over £10 million in contracts with the UK's Ministry of Defense. While the description of one contract has been discovered, the majority of the spending is not publicly available.

While Palantir has worked extensively with US law enforcement and armed forces, it is not clear if they provide similar services to governments abroad.

Amazon and its cloud computing business has worked with governments in Europe and elsewhere. Amazon, like other US tech companies, builds and provides facial recognition software that it markets to private companies.

AWS Rekognition, the company's facial recognition software, comes bundled with its cloud computing services. Microsoft and Google provide similar features in their cloud platforms.

Amazon's AI surveillance business abroad appears to be as opaque as Palantir's -- while Amazon provides surveillance and security technology to US authorities, it's not known whether they do so in other countries. In the United States, the company recently came under fire for its Ring home security cameras, which some say provide authorities with unlawful access to the private footage they capture.