[Geowanking] And now for something different from the formal photo

R E Sieber resieber at gmail.com
Thu May 22 08:42:24 PDT 2008

Naomi Klein wrote a fantastic article in Rolling Stone on the disconnect 
between capitalism and democracy in China, 
But the article is really about the future of geosurveillance, in which 
the major innovations are Chinese (and not ones I'd care to have):

The [2 million] security cameras [in Shenzhen] are just one part of a 
much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in 
China as "Golden Shield." The end goal is to use the latest 
people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants 
like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight 
consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile 
cellphones, McDonald's Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to 
name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be 
enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of 
democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, 
the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and 
counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one 
that grabbed the world's attention at Tiananmen Square.

This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be 
watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote 
monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, 
monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet 
access will be aggressively limited through the country's notorious 
system of online controls known as the "Great Firewall." Their movements 
will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips 
and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to 
their holder's personal data. This is the most important element of all: 
linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of 
names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. 
When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases 
for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.

It's no wonder I had that (polite) argument with the Google MM guy at 
Where 2.0. Sure, all that locational information can be stripped of its 
identifiers. And what happens when that information is combined with 
data mining? Anyway, sometimes I find the toys we play with kind of scary.


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