FLASHBACK: China’s High-Tech Surveillance State (Coming to an America Near You!)
by Sharon Weinberger
August 14, 2007
Computer chips that hold your personal data. Tracking your location through cellphone use. And, of course, ubiquitous surveillance cameras. China, according to the New York Times, is already well down the road to enacting some of the Orwellian technology that is just now being debated in the U.S.
At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity.
Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.
Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card.
Security experts describe China’s plans as the world’s largest effort to meld cutting-edge computer technology with police work to track the activities of a population and fight crime. But they say the technology can be used to violate civil rights.
And behind much of this technology, according to a related article, is a Chinese tycoon who sees a booming market in surveillance.