Innocent until proven guilty is a powerful law in America. However outside of America, that same law and presumption of innocence often doesn’t hold any value at all. With governments who have massive surveillance capabilities and the power to control the media, anything is possible. Now in China things are getting even more dire for lawful citizens and their internet privacy. A new mobile app is letting police and other officials gather mass surveillance data on both criminals and lawful citizens.
In China, the police program aggregates data through mass surveillance on people who could be potentially threatening. These people might not have even committed a crime yet. Remember Minority report with Tom cruise? Well, looks like the future is finally here, at least in China.
Researchers have been able to reverse engineer the app that is surveilling users, finding out that authorities are collecting a ton of information, from the color of a person’s car and even personal details like a person’s bodily information such as height. This information is fed to China’s surveillance system, known as the Integrated Joint Operations Platform, or IJOP. Once the data is retrieved, then the details are linked to identification card numbers. A large category of activity monitored by the app can be grounds for investigation, like the use of VPNs, or encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber.
The entire surveillance IJOP system is tracking and identifying all sorts of behavior, from the trajectory and location data of user phones, to electricity use. And when the IJOP system detects irregularities from normal behavior–such as when someone uses a phone not registered to them self, or if they leave a certain area, or even if they use more electricity than normal, the person in question is flagged and could be investigated by police.
The new system is designed to stop terrorism before it even starts, but that moral prerogative has huge side effects and is too broad in scope. Not only that, but researchers have surmised that the central goal of IJOP system is not simply gathering information to stop genuine terrorism, but instead designed to be the central power in enforcing the power of the current government regime. The system collects data on Chinese officials scoring them in how they perform tasks. By monitoring officials, higher level supervisors can therefore enforce and carry out repressive orders from the central power of the government itself.
The large amount of technological power the IJOP system has amassed and the capabilities it has, has turned China into a mirror of it’s past–what can be referred to as the “Mao Zedong era” where people in China were restricted to where they were registered to live and police could detain anyone for venturing outside their locales. And now in the modern police state, authorities can now reimpose the same level of restrictions at a massive scale. They also have the free ability to imprison anyone who becomes suspicious or doesn’t mean the standard of norm in their surveillance model.
The technological prowess of the new systems, alongside the government’s centralized power, means that the Chinese people now have less freedom now than they have in decades. There is no free press, and since the government is so hostile to independent civil organizations, there is no way to hold the government accountable or to stop the consequences the system is and will inflict on people’s lives.
China’s history of repression looks to be influencing the future, and with modern technology, it looks like China’s internet privacy is getting worse and worse. And now as the systems and applications used are being analyzed, the effects are becoming more real. Outside forces could influence China’s government, but with companies like Apple and Google complying with Chinese demands to make their bottom lines, it doesn’t seem like greed cares too much about privacy.