How do you say ‘Big Brother’ in China?

August 24, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Taro in ThailandCame across this article in The New York Times – scary. Southern China’s streets are about to become the proud owners of 20,000 police surveillance cameras. I guess China is gearing up for the Olympics and all the security this will entail, but is this also an opportunity to sneak in surveillance technologies? These cameras will soon be powered by technology (from a US firm) that will enable face recognition.

But the scarier related news is that in the same area (Shenzhen) high-tech residency cards will be handed out to 12.4 million people. These chipped cards (provided by the same US company) will not simply have name and address details recorded. No, these identity cards will go much further and record – work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even more: personal reproductive history will be included to enforce China’s controversial one-child policy. Plans are afoot to also add credit history, subway travel payments and any small purchases charged to the card.

The official stance is that the identity cards will help police to combat crime and keep track of an increasingly mobile population. But it takes little imagination to think that the Communist Government wants to keep its claws firmly embedded in the flesh of an increasingly affluent nation. Apparently, if a citizen of the area doesn’t have an identity card, they will be denied Government benefits and turfed out of the area.

The 20,000 cameras will join 180,000 indoor and outdoor webcams already in Shenzhen and owned by businesses or Government agencies. That’s a heck of a lot of webcams amidst people whose lives and movements will soon be heavily tracked and watched. The police in Shenzhen also carry GPS equipment on their belts.

You know what I’m about to say: once the technology is available and switched on, there’s really no going back.


Entry filed under: CCTV, China, Privacy, Public webcams.

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