The novel “1984” foretold of a dystopian future in which the government was always “watching” you. If only we had listened to George Orwell when we were told. In modern China technologies use has risen far above just the everyday practical uses. Playing host to some of the densest cities in the world tracking their 1.3 billion people can become quite difficult. Due to this the Chinese authorities have taken measures to ensure they can keep tabs on each and every person living within their borders. Using everything from cameras to facial recognition glasses the Chinese are slowly becoming the total authoritarian country we were forewarned about.
Cameras are the key to China’s ‘dystopian vision’
What better way to keep an eye on citizens than to install millions of cameras across the country? In the past decade China has installed over 200 million cameras throughout its cities, highways and towns. To put that into perspective that’s four times as many cameras as there are in the United States. This has enabled them to spot some of the most wanted criminals in train stations and airports. By 2020, the Chinese police are expected to have spent $30 billion on technology. The government has gone so far as to install complete facial recognition systems in over 16 cities and provinces across the country. These facial recognition systems boast a whopping 99.8% accuracy rating and have the ability to spot a jaywalker in a crowd of 20,000. Authorities have ensured they have total control and warn that they will ensure the safety of the country as a whole; regardless of the people’s needs..
The Invasion and Destruction of Privacy in China
Privacy in China was ruined the instant Mao Zing took office, but in recent years modern technology has imposed its will upon the citizens. Cell phones have become an important use of communication and police have made sure to keep tabs on who you are talking with, and what you are talking about. All phone users in China must download apps that allow authorities to monitor phone activity and scan all photos, videos etc. On top of these restrictions tech companies must keep records of all phone conversations within the last six months and are deemed responsible to report any criminal activity they spot. Police officers enforce random stops upon innocent Chinese citizens, during which officers check phones, laptops, and other devices for apps and messages that can be seen as dangerous to the country.
Social media is considered a necessity for all phone users and restrictions are imposed as all posts are monitored and linked to the users’ location and family. A young man residing in Vancouver by the name of Shawn Wang was scrolling through twitter one day and retweeted an anti-Xi Jinping post. A few days later his mother, in Wuyi Eastern China received a phone call requesting that her son remove the post and something like this not happen again. To this day neither Shawn nor his mother have an idea how the police found his account and tracked it to his mother’s house.
Robot Police… Yes, you heard that right
If any official has seen the film “RoboCop” they surely would’ve stopped whoever’s idea this was. Robot Policeman is located at almost every train station in China and is set up to scan all faces in the area and match them to those of criminals and fugitives. As well as honing this ability it can also monitor air quality, clean it and locate all fires within a certain radius. Pop Culture warnings of the future must mean absolutely nothing to the Chinese government.
Victoria Liset is strategic business & technology consultant to SMEs. She helps businesses improve their performance by using data more efficiently, and helping them to understand the implications of new technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Big data, blockchain and IoT.