Imagine a world where everything you do from meeting your friends to using a public toilet is recorded based on your actions ranging from what you buy to where you go. You are given a score similar to the way you rate an uber drive if the government believes what you do is socially beneficial the score will increase and if not, the score will decrease.
If you critique the government buy alcohol or play games your score decreases and when your score is low you won’t be allowed to travel, your children would be barred from, applying to high school and you would be fired from your job and the best part you would be publicly shamed.
This dystopian future is a reality of today’s china according to people’s daily china’s facial recognition system has become so advanced that it can scan the faces of 1.4 billion Chinese citizens in just a second after the arrival of the internet in China in 1994.
It became a very critical channel of communication for Chinese citizens in a place where speech and access to information have heavily restricted the internet became a medium where people could find uncensored news speak their minds and even organize protests.
However, as time passed the authorities found a way to block the free flow of information and use the internet for their benefit within a decade they built an extensive infrastructure of surveillance combined with cutting-edge technologies with the help of it they tracked those who spoke against the government and they were subsequently arrested or intimidated things worsened under xi’s era when a ruling was made by supreme people’s court in September 2013.
A person could face prison for three years for posting comments that spread rumors and are deemed to be defamatory by the authorities soon the state media revealed that the government had hired more than 2 million individuals as microblog monitors to report on online postings to official sensors in 2016.
A cybersecurity law was passed which further facilitated state control on the internet companies like Alibaba Tencent Baidu were required to censor prohibited content to reduce the anonymity of people on the internet they were instructed to ask people their real name with proof during registration during the same period the Chinese government was also working on project Skynet.
Skynet is a mass surveillance system that was created in 2005 however the government revealed its existence in 2013 when it had already installed a network of 20 million cameras across the country by 2019 this number increased from 20 million to 200 million authorities claim that this network allows them to track criminals within minutes and keep the public safe.
But the question is who will save the public from the government in the name of fighting terrorism members of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups located in the northwestern part of China are forced to give their biometric data like photos fingerprints DNA blood and voice samples police.
Then, flag certain behaviors like growing a beard leaving their house fire a back door, or visiting the mosque, and those who do such things are red-flagged by the system and interrogated by police wrongly accused, and put in prison camps in some cases authorities have installed surveillance cameras inside the homes of minority communities
The algorithms used in the surveillance network have become so, good that they can detect the number of people in the frame with their gender ethnicity, and age in real-time.
Moreover, they can identify the person by their style of walking when under 50 meters of distance from the camera the united states and other countries also use some of the same techniques but, their use is limited to track terrorists or drug lords .
But, Chinese authorities want to use them to track everybody thanks to the high demand for surveillance cameras by the Chinese government.
It has become a booming industry Chinese government wants a better and efficient surveillance system and companies want to secure big government contracts so to get the contract companies are constantly improving their tech ultimately benefiting the government efforts of making mass surveillance more efficient but this is not limited to the camera on the streets
Your face is scanned in restaurants to give you meal recommendations you can pay while shopping through faces can and if you want to use toilet paper in public toilets you guessed it your face will be scanned first and then the toilet paper will be dispensed through a machine surprisingly according to the times the personal data of millions of people on the government servers was unprotected by even basic security measures and they also found that private contractors and middlemen had wide access to personal data collected by the Chinese government.
Coming back to cyber-surveillance whatever you do online is being recorded from your financial transactions to messages everything is intercepted by Chinese authorities.
let’s take the example of Wechat. Wechat started as a messaging app then it transformed into chinese facebook and then it added a ride hailing service similar to uber to its platform and then it added banking services to its platform and now you can use it as an id if you’re living in china you can file for divorce through this app this will make your life very convenient but at the same time it also becomes very convenient for state security to track you to combat message interceptions they talk through emojis
A half fallen rose means someone has been arrested a dark moon means they’re going to prison camps
A sun emoji means they are alive and a flower means they have been released now combined cyber surveillance with Skynet
you get unimaginable power and control over 16 percent of the world’s population china calls it the social credit system whatever you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed is recorded based on your actions your social credit score increases or decreases.
If you praise the government publicly donate blood to help the poor engage in charity work etc.
Your score increases if your score is high you’ll get tax breaks free gym preference at hospitals and if you do something which is considered to be wrongful by the government the opposite happens due to the social credit system people fail to look at the bigger picture as they are constantly busy improving their scores to avail the benefits which come with it the ratings for every Chinese citizen are publicly available and anyone can see them completely eradicating their privacy and ruining their social life
If you raise your voice against the government your score would decrease and other people wouldn’t know why your score is low they might think it’s low because you did something wrong.
So they’d want to stay away from you soon due to the fear of lower ratings and what others would think about them similar to what happens on social media citizens will refrain from any kind of independent expression both on social media and real-life as this might lead to lower ratings leading to a denial of basic human rights for them the complete eradication of privacy helps the authorities to quash movements and protests against the government before they even start according to many china’s mass surveillance is a grave new threat to freedom of expression and a violation of fundamental human rights.
So, what do you think about this surveillance system? Is it good or bad? Comment and tell us.