• United States



China increases its surveillance state

Jun 19, 20184 mins

China plans to add bio-recognition technology to subways and to install RFID chips in vehicle windshields.

subway station 87638274
Credit: Thinkstock

Apparently, China doesn’t believe it has enough surveillance yet to count as a dystopian hell, as there are plans to add bio-recognition technology to subways and install RFID chips in vehicle windshields.

This goes beyond a person having their face scanned in order to be issued toilet paper at a historical park because visiting the Temple of Heaven is a choice; most people cannot choose to simply stop going to work. People living in Beijing and commuting to work via the subway are about to be subjected to bio-recognition tech. It is estimated that over 10 million people ride the Beijing subway every work day.

The bio-ID system coming to the Beijing subway system will include facial recognition cameras and palm scanners, according to China Daily. The purpose of deploying the technologies is theoretically to speed up passenger flow.

Reuters added that the face scanner would recognize people’s faces, “potentially allowing them to bypass normal ticketing channels, while the palm scanner would enable some people to swipe their hands to get through ticket turnstiles.”

Monitoring citizens’ movements

It’s also yet another handy way for the Chinese government to monitor citizens’ movements. God help dissenters because there are fewer and fewer places to “hide” from the nationwide surveillance system China has built.

Couldn’t they bypass the subway and drive? Yes, but say hello to the little RFID tag in your windshield. The Wall Street Journal reported that China intends to track all drivers via an RFID chip on the windshields of all vehicles.

Starting July 1, adding an RFID chip to a windshield is voluntary. The car’s paint color and license plate will be recorded. Card readers near roads will detect the RFID chip as cars pass by and send the data to the Ministry of Public Security. Say bye-bye to the voluntary compliance starting in 2019, when installing the RFID chips on windshields becomes mandatory.

There are an estimated 5 million vehicles on the road in Beijing, resulting in a staggering number of traffic deaths each year. The theory is that the chips will help will manage traffic and study congestion, pollution, and public security. It will also give a big boost to the chip industry in China. While the windshield chips may help with those things, it will also be yet another notch in the Chinese surveillance state’s belt.

Surveillance in China

Surveillance in China has truly reached terrifying heights. There’s a form of Orwell’s Thought Police – dubbed “emotional surveillance technology” – used by some employers to monitor employees. Employees wear hats that are filled with brainwave sensors capable of monitoring emotions. An employee with undesirable emotions could be sent home or moved to another work area.

The marriage of 20 million CCTV surveillance cameras, artificial intelligence, and GPS tracking makes spying in real time a reality in China; the surveillance system bears the unfortunate name of Sky Net.

A Chinese documentary explained that at the age of 16, Chinese people are given a photo national ID with the data stored in a government database. The security cameras use face recognition to identify each person on the street and then the AI overlays a popup of personal information on the screen by the person. Descriptions include details such as age, gender, and other features such as clothing color. This happens in real time. The CCTV footage is stored, making it even easier to track tagged people in the videos. It can even be used for things like texting jaywalkers a fine.

Then there’s the social credit system, aka Citizen Score, tied to 1.3 billion Chinese citizen’s national ID cards. A good score provides perks like better internet and getting on the list to travel. A bad score, which even friends and family members can cause by posting something frowned upon or by buying video games, also affects citizens but in negative ways.

Sooner or later, other governments will see the benefit of keeping citizens afraid to express dissenting opinions and the extreme surveillance will be adopted in other countries. The surveillance mentioned above is not even all of what China has deployed while creating a dystopian hell that should scare that pants off of you.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.