(how about sparking this conversation during our Fourth of July celebrations? – promoted by pfiore8)
cross posted at The Ohm Project: an exercise in resistance
High resolution cameras covering nearly every inch of public space. National IDs crammed with biometric data. Facial recognition software that can’t be defeated even by plastic surgery. And a massive database to connect the cameras, the IDs, all financial and medical data.
It’s not merely resident in the mind’s eye of a screenwriter of the next dystopian thriller. According to Naomi Klein in the latest issue of Rolling Stone , China has already implemented much of the above and is only a year or two away from completing this Information Age 1984 with the eager help of U. S. corporations and an American government that looks the other way as anti-export laws are violated.
Klein says that the latest unrest in Tibet was a test for the ever-expanding system, called the "Golden Shield." And the oppressive infrastructure earned at least an A-. Dissident cell phones were jammed. Information favorable to the protestors was blocked on the Internet. Photos of the participants, especially the leaders, were rapidly disseminated on "Most Wanted" posters on the Internet and the protests were "spun" through Chinese media to make the Tibetans look like violent thugs.
While some in the West were protesting the crackdown on dissent, companies like Yahoo, Google, Cisco and a mysterious company called L-1 Identity Solutions have been cooperating with the Chinese government and hoping to profit greatly from helping construct Police State 2.0. Yahoo came under mild Congressional criticism in 2006 for turning over email data belonging to dissidents who had (unwisely) used their free email service. Google custom tailors searches in China to censor out results offensive to the government. Cisco provides the routers for the Great Firewall of China that not only blocks out websites like the BBC but also allows deep packet surveillance on Chinese surfers.
And L-1 may be the lynchpin of the whole system. Some say their facial recognition sofware is the best in the world. Despite American laws prohibiting the export of technology that could aid the Chinese govenment in oppressing its citizens, L-1 is stealthily working with Chinese companies to compete for the contract to make the facial recognition software that will tie China’s rapdily growing high resolution camera phalanx into a integrated system that can identify everyone on the street at any time and tie their face to their national ID and the vast amount of data kept there.
Klein’s perception? The Chinese are currently the leading implementers of the newest form of social and economic organization, a sort of "free market stalinism" that combines consumerism and rapacious capitalism with a powerful police state that allows no dissent. She also believes that ultimately this new fascist technology is destined to be exported back to the U. S. along with the iPods and flat screen TVs.
What may be the most frightening is that the Chinese respond to criticism of their destruction of privacy and freedom by pointing to the U. S. with its Patriot Act, its cozy surveillance deals with telecommunications companies and, of course, Gitmo. They even sell the system to the Chinese with the same kind of “we’ll protect you from crime and evildoers” that accompanies every FBI and DOJ grab for more unconstitutional power to snoop in the U. S.
A teaser to get you to read the full article:
Remember how we’ve always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American “homeland security” technologies, pumped up with “war on terror” rhetoric. And the global corporations currently earning superprofits from this social experiment are unlikely to be content if the lucrative new market remains confined to cities such as Shenzhen. Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.
The most horric conditions imagined by pessimists like Orwell do not match what is rapidly becoming a reality around the world. For the most part, courts are looking the other way (Germany and New Jersey are exceptions). Politicians like Jane Harman are elbowing their way to the front to sponsor the latest thought crime and pro-surveillance bills. Is the anything we can do beyond quaking in terror or putting all our hopes on a political savior? Learn to resist. Make the “watchers” job more difficult. Encrypt email. Use VPN. Use cash.
And hell, we should all wear Groucho glasses in public. See how L-1 software handles that.