Everywhere we look the influence of the Chinese government and their totalitarian surveillance methods can be seen.
Go ahead and search “China surveillance” (Pro-tip: Use DuckDuckGo or an alternative search engine!) and watch how many articles pop up regarding the growing digital dystopia being finalized across the People’s Republic of China. Titles like, Smart ID cards and facial recognition: How China spreads surveillance tech around the world and China’s new surveillance state, everyone will be watched, reviewed and rated really warm the heart and fill the head with a vision of a society where no thought is private, criticism of the State is illegal, and your social behaviors affect your place in life.
This is the current state of much of China. And it’s coming to a neighborhood near you.
Case in point, Reuters recently reported that Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp is developing a “Smart Card” for Venezuela to help track citizens every move. The Venezuelan government sent a group to China to learn how to build their own surveillance state. Reuters reports:
‘What we saw in China changed everything,’ said the member of the Venezuelan delegation, technical advisor Anthony Daquin. His initial amazement, he said, gradually turned to fear that such a system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government. ‘They were looking to have citizen control.’
The following year, when he raised concerns with Venezuelan officials, Daquin told Reuters, he was detained, beaten and extorted by intelligence agents. They knocked several teeth out with a handgun and accused him of treasonous behavior, Daquin said, prompting him to flee the country. Government spokespeople had no comment on Daquin’s account.
It’s now been ten years since that first trip and Venezuela is now introducing the smart identification card known as the “carnet de la patria,” or “fatherland card.” The ID sends data about an individual’s activity. It is currently linked to the government via subsidized food, health and other social programs. Reuters reviewed screenshots of user data and found that the card system stores birthdays, family details, employment and income, property owned, medical history, welfare benefits, social media details, political affiliation and voting status.
Looking to China we also see the products of Chinese influence. Quartz recently reported how China is exporting its digital surveillance methods to African governments. The report states that Chinese government and corporations are providing technological infrastructure to authoritarian regimes, and insisting that international companies accept Chinese content regulation, even outside of China. According to US-based think tank Freedom House, this combination is “an existential threat to the future of the open internet and prospects for greater democracy around the globe.”
Over the past year, China hosted sessions on its sprawling system of censorship and surveillance for media officials from countries such as Morocco, Egypt, and Libya. Last November, it also held a two-week seminar on “Cyberspace Management for Officials of Countries along the Belt and Road Initiative.” Freedom House says “it is not always clear what transpires during such seminars,” but that the meetings have usually been followed by the introduction of cybersecurity laws that closely resemble China’s own law including in Uganda and Tanzania.
It’s worth your time to read that report. The United States is not immune to this influence. U.S. based Google has recently come under fire for choosing to build a censored version of their search engine for China. Even Facebook was apparently planning on to return to China where Facebook has been blocked since 2009. However, today Facebook announced they would only do so if China allowed “free expression” and considered “privacy implications.” We’ll see how that turns out.
The fact of the matter is we have to accept the fact that the top governments of the world are increasingly supporting totalitarian measures. The U.S., China, and Russia are all hostile to free speech and activism. Each nation is in an arms race attempting to acquire the latest technology complete with facial recognition and other biometrics, as well as cameras and microphones strategically placed throughout our world so Big Brother and Sister never miss a word. The current 5G technology roll out will allow this Smart Surveillance Grid to come to life. The word on the street is that the 5G Smart Grid roll out will be complete between 2018 – 2021.
What are you gonna do about it?