WTF?! The Chinese government's surveillance efforts are now focused on what can only be described as the perfect Orwellian nightmare. Apparently, regulators are looking to use a variety of data points collected on Chinese citizens to build profiles from which an automated system could predict potential dissidents or criminals before they have a chance to act on their impulses.
It's no secret that China is building a very different Internet than the Western world. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as a "surveillance economy" due to its questionable policies. The Chinese government seeks to control its citizens' online activity to the point of putting curfews on watching livestreams, recording the location of social media users, putting limits on how much time kids can spend playing online games, building a social credit system, and mandating direct access to user data stored on private cloud servers.
Over the past several years, China has invested a lot of resources in keeping tabs on its citizens as well as tourists, not to mention monitoring the emotions of minorities from the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region. Facial recognition is one of the Chinese government's favorite technologies, and it's estimated that well over half the world's surveillance cameras are installed in the country.
To get an idea of how deep these efforts go, Chinese tech companies have been trying to shape global surveillance standards for years. However, it gets worse --- a New York Times report suggests China is looking to use the vast amounts of data it's been collecting for years to create a surveillance system that is worryingly similar to what was portrayed in the 2002 movie Minority Report.
The new system is designed to comb through data collected on citizens' daily activities and detect patterns and aberrations that could predict when crimes or protests are likely to happen. Leaked documents reveal this automated surveillance will build profiles that will include gender, race, biometric data, criminal records, mental illnesses, and more. When multiple people are considered high-risk and gather in the same place, an automated alert will be sent to nearby police units.
For now, China is still seeking bids from companies that are willing to provide the technology needed to build this advanced surveillance system. In the meantime, Chinese police are said to have built a database of over 2.5 billion facial images and a large surveillance contractor called Megvii has reportedly built software that can link a person to all the digital accounts it uses to access online services and track their movements and daily activities.
Image credit: Parker Coffman