- Authorities across China have been using new hi-tech surveillance methods to monitor citizens in an attempt to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
- They include flying drones to make sure people are wearing masks, facial-recognition cameras, and making people download software to track their location.
- This kind of surveillance is already present in Xinjiang, the homeland of the Uighurs, where China operates an invasive, 21st-century police state.
- Experts told Business Insider that this mass data collection could stay the norm even after the coronavirus becomes less of a public-health threat.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
China has dramatically ramped up its data-collection efforts in its efforts to stem its coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 80,000 people in the country alone.
In pursuit of this, authorities have rolled out a slew of new tactics to monitor and track potential cases.
The Chinese government has long been criticized for its invasive use of technology, and the coronavirus outbreak has appeared to strengthen its case for harvesting more data – a situation experts fear could become permanent.
The methods include:
- Monitoring the populace via drones, which tell individual people to put on a mask or go indoors.
- New facial-recognition software that measures people’s temperatures and identifies them based on body and facial data – even when they are wearing masks.
- Checking phone data to see if people have come within close range of a coronavirus patient.
- Giving police helmets fitted out with facial-recognition and thermal cameras, so they can identify and catch people with a fever.
- Making people download software that uses their Alibaba accounts to estimate their health, gives them a color-coded risk of contagion, and shares it with law enforcement.
After bearing the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak, China appears to be undergoing a turnaround, in which people are getting better faster than they fall sick.
However, experts fear that this mass data collection could continue after the coronavirus is less of a public-health threat, and becomes a permanent addition to the Communist Party surveillance’s state.
(It’s worth noting that these technologies have so far been implemented piecemeal in some regions, and it’s too early to tell whether they actually helped China stem an outbreak.)
But this kind of surveillance state already exists in in one part of China: Xinjiang, a northwestern Chinese region home to the oppressed Uighur population.
The Chinese state sees Islam – the religion of most Uighurs – as a threat, and conflating it with religious extremism. China has in the past few years effectively set up a police state in their homeland.
Almost a million Uighurs have been detained in prison-like re-education camps over alleged infractions as minor as going to other countries, growing a beard, and owning computer files in the Uighur language. (Many of these so-called crimes were laid out recently in a series of leaked documents called the Karakax List.)
Authorities there have installed almost a million facial-recognition cameras to record crimes, and even anticipate them.
Additional source — Paul Mozur’s Twitter page: