China Monitors WiFi, US Takes Notes?

from the but-but-THEY-are-doing-it dept

In a move that perhaps surprises no one, China is now requiring all providers of free WiFi to install expensive monitoring software that tracks their users, or face heavy fines. According to the officials in the Dongcheng Public Security Bureau, the rules are in place to catch people who “conduct blackmail, traffic goods, gamble, propagate damaging information and spread computer viruses.” And I’m sure if they just happen to catch a political dissident here and there, well, that would just be a fortuitous turn of events.

I think even the least cynical among us can see what the real aim is here. What concerns me, however, is how the US will respond.

If history is any indication, US officials will denounce this as a restriction on free speech, while at the same time making sure to vigorously support such restrictions at home. They’ll probably decry the new Chinese efforts as privacy invasive while doing their best to make ISPs retain data on customers for law enforcement use. No doubt they will have strong words to say about internet censorship around the globe while they craft bills to take down websites with little or no due process. In fact, the very notion of open WiFi itself has been under siege for quite some time. Operating an open connection can already get your internet disconnected, or have your house raided by a swat team. With all that hypocrisy in mind, the next step for the US with regard to open WiFi seems pretty clear.

Lest you think I am engaging in hyperbole, perhaps an exercise is in order. All we need to do is to adjust the stated goals of the Chinese to match current US culture and politics:

1. “Blackmail” is not a hot button issue here, so they might want to claim the needed data retention policies are to stop child porn instead. That always sells well.
2. “Traffic Goods” sounds an awful lot like trading in counterfeit goods. And of course we know that selling fake medicine is just like copyright infringement.
3. “Gambling” is easy enough. We already seize poker sites. We even set up our own fake payment sites so we can steal money from gamblers too!
4. “Propagate damaging information?” What could be more damaging than <a href=”””>wikileaks, which we’re trying desperately to charge with something (anything!).
5. “Spread computer viruses” fits nicely into the current cybercrime fear-mongering.

Can anyone honestly say that they can’t see a US politician standing up tomorrow to announce that we need to start monitoring our own open WiFi connections to stop “child pornography, copyright infringement, online gambling, disclosure of national secrets, and cybercrime?” That’s practically the holy grail of political grandstanding, and what politician is going to speak out against that?

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “China Monitors WiFi, US Takes Notes?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

The Chinese government has clearly figured out the hole that exists with open wifi. I am betting that wi-fi units that can be “open” will be discouraged or even blocked from selling at some point.

In the US, you will likely see changes to laws that create an offence is “aiding or abetting” crimes committed over an open wi-fi connection. It’s clearly a real issue going forward.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

… usual left hand not aware of the right hand tactic….

I was looking for a link to an article about the notorious bootlegger and rumrunner who was riding in the front car of the Temperance parade, but this one is close enough…

1920’s Prohibition:

Criminal elements organized because of the large profits in bootlegging. Much of the population had contempt for law enforcement during 1920s’ Prohibition. Chicago?s Al Capone and his organization were considered glamorous figures; supposedly, half the city?s police were on their payroll.

Ed C. says:

It’s not too hard to figure out once you frame that in the context of us vs them: “…preaching love and peace (for those who agree with them) yet practicing hatred and violence (against anyone who doesn’t), claiming fidelity to the Constitution (as long as it suits them) yet systematically abrogating the rights of other citizens, and countries (who they couldn’t give a rat’s ass for).

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...