How Invasive Is China’s Mass Surveillance?

In preparation for China’s National Day,
police in Beijing have sought to avoid disruption by installing surveillance cameras in every
corner of the city. In fact, China Daily has reported that 100% of the city is under video
surveillance as part of a nationwide project, ominously called “Skynet”. So we wanted
to know, just how invasive is China’s mass surveillance? Well, by 2013, China had installed up to 30
million cameras around the country, jumping dramatically from a little under 3 million
cameras in 2005. NPR reported finding 11 cameras in a 100 foot radius. 13 million were installed
in 2011 alone. And while the cameras do seem to lower crime rates, China’s oppressive
government doesn’t just stop there. China is well known to censor and monitor all of
its web traffic, and uses this information to imprison journalists and bloggers. China
has roughly 2 million internet police alone, who have been cracking down on any form of
dissent or protest. The practice of jailing political dissidents has led to China holding
the largest number of people arrested for their internet history. But it only gets worse. China is also known
to wiretap phones, with one politician found tapping high ranking officials and China’s
President. The New York Times has even reported that private phone calls are automatically
disconnected when a controversial word, like “protest”, is mentioned. And while it
may sound paranoid, many hide or disable their cell phones when having potentially dissenting
conversations in person. According to NPR, some Chinese citizens suggest that their cell
phones can be remotely activated to listen in. So what does China do with all this information?
Well, besides imprisoning those they disagree with, they also use it to publicly rate their
population. Chinese citizens are given a “social credit score”, which is similar to a regular
credit score. The difference is that it is based on private behavior, and affects much
more than your car loan. It’s reported that if you badmouth the government online, play
video games, or even if one of your friends posts something disagreeable, your score goes
down. And this score can assist or prevent you in receiving a travel visa, a bank loan,
or even a job. The government has announced that this system will be mandatory within
the next 5 years. Obviously, programs like these are intended
to create a fear of dissent. The American Civil Liberties Union has said that this surveillance
and judgment system should serve as a warning for the United States. Although China is no
longer a totalitarian system, they are unquestionably authoritarian; threatening both pressure and
actual arrest for anyone who dares to question the status quo. While the US is unlikely to
be as aggressive as China in this regard, the use of mass surveillance in the United
States has already seen a huge shift in public perceptions of the government. China alarming new credit score system is
just the tip of the iceberg. Watch Seeker Daily to learn more about it. Thanks for watching TestTube News!
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