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August 12th, 2007

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01:42 am - Surveillance in China: a useful warning
Here's an interesting and worrisome NYT article on electronic surveillance in China.
At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity.

Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.
Being China, this system will naturally be used in all manner of horrific and totalitarian ways, and with luck the rest of the first world will hear some of these reports. I'm hoping that the misfortunes of Chinese citizens will help limit the worst such abuses elsewhere. In any case, yet another reasons to be thankful we are not living there. I remain hopeful about something like David Brin's vision of a "transparent society", and convinced that the illusion of privacy in public places will have utterly vanished throughout the first world in a decade, but with care and the totalitarian example of China to serve as a warning, I'm hopeful that this can and will be a good thing.
Current Mood: tiredtired

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:August 12th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)
I'm still shocked about the widespread use of CCTV in the UK and recently heard that a similar program is underway in Chicago. I just cannot help but imagine a future like 1984 is coming when I hear about all of these cameras that are being constantly monitored and not in places like China, but Chicago. Freaky.
[User Picture]
Date:August 13th, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)
I will heartily welcome a more transparent society the moment I believe all people capable of handling the information in a tolerant and respectful fashion. Unfortunately, I think the technology will exist at least a thousand years before a global culture is psychologically prepared to deal with it.
[User Picture]
Date:August 13th, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)
Perhaps. However, the tech is going to happen, if only because lots of people are going to be doing life-logging (recording their lives) and putting the results up on-line) and street cameras are here to stay. In that situation, I vastly prefer the idea of everyone having access to the data, rather than just the government. Then again, I'm also generally against all forms of imposed secrecy.
[User Picture]
Date:August 13th, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)
What would make any government less likely to abuse surveillance technology? Our government would surely do the same things, just in a more subtle fashion.
[User Picture]
Date:August 13th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)
I'm hoping that a sufficient number of reports about the many certain abuses of the Chinese tech will get much of the first world population behind a movement to deal with this issue in a sensible fashion. I expect this to succeed very well in Canada and most of Western Europe and to be more problematic in the US, because we are so often ruled by monsters or fools (or in the current case, someone who is simultaneously both), but if the Chinese situation becomes sufficiently bad, perhaps it will be enough. If nothing else, having this negative example is (from my own impressively selfish perspective) vastly superior to the US being the test-bed for these sorts of governmental abuses.

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