Chinese Surveillance State Is Basically The US Surveillance Apparatus Minus The Constitutional Rights

from the result-of-asking-'why-not?'-rather-than-'why?' dept

Reuters has a long, detailed examination of the Chinese surveillance state. China’s intrusion into the lives of its citizens has never been minimal, but advances in technology have allowed the government to keep tabs on pretty much every aspect of citizens’ lives.

Facial recognition has been deployed at scale and it’s not limited to finding criminals. It’s used to identify regular citizens as they go about their daily lives. This is paired with license plate readers and a wealth of information gathered from online activity to provide the government dozens of data points for every citizen that wanders into the path of its cameras. Other biometric information is gathered and analyzed to help the security and law enforcement agencies better pin down exactly who it is they’re looking at.

China’s high tech surveillance gadgets, sometimes referred to as “black tech”, often make the headlines. They include police glasses with built-in facial recognition, cameras that analyze how people walk, drones and artificially-intelligent robots.

But it goes further than that. The Chinese version of stop-and-frisk involves “patting down” cellphones for illegal content or evidence of illegal activities.

Filip Liu, a 31-year-old software developer from Beijing, was traveling in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang when he was pulled to one side by police as he got off a bus.

The officers took Liu’s iPhone, hooked it up to a handheld device that looked like a laptop and told him they were “checking his phone for illegal information”.

Liu’s experience in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, is not uncommon in a region that has been wracked by separatist violence and a crackdown by security forces.


Hand-held devices allow police to quickly check the content of phones on the street. Liu, the Beijing software developer, said the police were able to review his data on the spot. They apparently didn’t find anything objectionable as he was not detained.

China is home to several companies offering phone cracking services and forensic software. It’s not only Cellebrite and Grayshift, although these two are best known for selling tech to US law enforcement. Not that phone cracking is really a necessity in China. Most citizens hand over passwords when asked, considering the alternative isn’t going to be a detainment while a warrant is sought. The option is far more likely to be something like a trip to a modern dungeon for a little conversational beating.

What’s notable about this isn’t the tech. This tech is everywhere. US law enforcement has access to much of this, minus the full-blown facial recognition and other biometric tracking. (That’s on its way, though.) Plate readers, forensic devices, numerous law enforcement databases, social media tracking software… these are all in use already.

Much of what China has deployed is being done in the name of security. That’s the same justification for the massive surveillance apparatus erected after the 2001 attacks. The framework for a totalitarian state is already in place. The only thing separating us from China is our Constitutional rights. Whenever you hear a US government official lamenting perps walking on technicalities or encryption making it tough to lock criminals up, keep in mind the alternative is China: a full-blown police state stocked to the teeth with surveillance tech.

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Comments on “Chinese Surveillance State Is Basically The US Surveillance Apparatus Minus The Constitutional Rights”

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Anonymous Coward says:

considering the USA ignores the ‘Constitutional Rights’ now almost totally and almost every time, because the Surveillance State and the rights of the few to be in complete charge of everyone else, while making mega money and hiding what they are up to from everyone, is far more important than ‘The People’, explain more exactly what is the difference? do something that the government in China doesn’t like and you’re arrested. what is different in USA? it makes no difference if what you have said, wrote, done etc is legal, it isn’t liked so jail you go! make a simple, single physical movement and get beaten to pulp, if you’re lucky or shot and killed if you’re unlucky. result is the same, really. you suddenly ‘fall off the Planet’ because Mr powerful coward says that’s what will happen!

the USA is not only like China, N.Korea, Iran and a hundred other countries that are condemned outwardly but is even worse than them in a lot of ways and occasions. the ‘Land of the Free, Home of the Brave’ has been thrown under the bus, thrown off the cliff, because the people are so naive as to not realize how they are being more and more exploited, just to ensure that the few can carry on enslaving the rest of us, while not even having the balls to stand up and admit it!! typical cowards, typical bullies!!

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is funny, as its the Laws are interesting in the USA..

Its the same can VIDEO persons but NOT voice record..WITHOUT PERMISSION..

Just cause you monitor and record persons, MEANS you may NOT be able to use it in court..but gives you REASONS to follow them and find OTHER things you can USE in court..

Department of Homeland Security

CBP Officers and Border Patrol Agents at a ceremony in 2007
Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG)
Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC)
DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate
Federal Protective Service (FPS)
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS)
United States Coast Guard Police (CGPD)
United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
United States Border Patrol (USBP)
CBP Air and Marine Operations (AMO)
CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO)
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center
Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center Police
Office of Chief Security Officer (OCSO)
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO)
Office of Intelligence
Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)
United States Secret Service (USSS)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Office of Law Enforcement (OLE)/Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS)
Office of Inspection (OI)
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

This is NOT the whole list..

Right(s) On says:

Pin headed angels

Meanwhile, back in the LERM (light encoded reality matrix, er… I mean back at the ranch), a great brouhaha erupts as to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

While at the stupor bowl, er… I mean Super Bowl, gladiators pray to their idea of deity to prevail in the contest of temporary paramount critical significance.

And the beat goes on.

Anonymous Coward says:

> Whenever you hear a US government official lamenting perps walking on technicalities or encryption making it tough to lock criminals up, keep in mind the alternative is China: a full-blown police state stocked to the teeth with surveillance tech.

Not comforting at all. The US government routinely tramples constitutional rights.

“The question is not can I do a thing, it’s who is going to stop me”.

The US government does whatever it wants until hitting that wall routinely, and at scale. Any response is slow and drawn out through the courts, only stopped after a decade or more of violation.

On the rare occasion infringement of the constitution is stopped, the negotiated date where infringement must end is kicked off into the distant future. Meanwhile a bill is introduced which redefines key words in their program as to deviate from the terms used in the lawsuit ending the program. The invasive program continues in all but name.

Turn on your tv and watch ten hours of hate and outrage. Distracted from invasions as bad as anything China has rolled out.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not comforting at all. The US government routinely tramples constitutional rights.

Perhaps, but those rights are at least theoretically there, and actions that violate them can be fought against in court.

Your odds might not be great, with more than zero judges basically acting as rubber stamps that might as well have ‘Whatever the government says goes’ tattooed on the insides of their eyelids, but there’s at least a chance that you’d get one that actually cares about those rights.

If you don’t even have those however, and there’s nothing in place to set a limit on what the government can do, then you’re really screwed.

Saul Overnow says:

Yet Techdirt cheers the corporatists just as ruthless in the US!

There soon won’t be a practical difference. IF you were actually against the surveillance state, you’d be shrieking at Google everyday, and running pieces on Facebook’s Chinese-imitating “trust scores”.

But instead, Techdirt asserts that “platforms” have an actual Right to arbitrarily control speech of “natural” persons.

In what way is Techdirt opposing same in the US? You’re just reporting at best, calming the frogs down while talking up corporate rule.

Anonymous Coward says:

Slight side note, but I just realized that this is the year that people born after 9/11 begin graduating from highschool. That means we’ve got a bunch of adults out there now who never experienced a time before DHS and the surveillance state.

With a generation of being told “this is normal” it seems like it won’t be long until the majority accepts this level of government oversight as necessary.

Dave Cortright (profile) says:

Where are the devices that fight back?

I want to see a phone that when hooked up to an unauthorized snooping device issues a lethal jolt of current that will fry the attached unit, and then goes into full lockdown requiring biometric and passcode to unlock. Anyone know of projects like the being worked on? Heck, I’d settle for just know there is a trojan phone that isn’t actually a phone but just a huge battery that can unleash a massive power spike.

(Legal disclaimer: I am just asking for the existence of such devices, not that I would ever condone owning or using them.)

renato (profile) says:

Re: Where are the devices that fight back?

And then what?

As mentioned in the article the biggest problem is that the government can easily force people to provide their password (or biometric information).
If I’m not mistaken there were some laws in UK that forced people to provide their passwords or face a punishment for hindering the investigation.
If you were stop-and-frisked, damaging their devices or refusing to "cooperate" would only add more leverage for them prosecute you.

It might work if your house were searched after a warrant and they took them to analyze it somewhere else.
But I guess that after the first uses of such kind of device, they would produce a specific protection against those current spikes.

Dave Cortright (profile) says:

Re: Re: Where are the devices that fight back?

Bring on the arms race, I say.

A truly progressive device of this sort would have a duress password that enters into a plausible deniability container with a modicum of completely benign data in it. They can take all the measures they want, and it can simply be met with counter-measures. And if along the way they have to replace some expensive field diagnostic equipment, well just tack that onto the existing security theater budget.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Where are the devices that fight back?

You better hope they believe in the plausible deniability container. Because if they don’t they might throw you in a dark hole until you decide to give them the real password (whether there is a real password or not). Do they routinely torture prisoners in China? It’s very easy to say “bring it on” when you’re living in the west and you know the Chinese government won’t bring it to you personally.

Dave Cortright (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Where are the devices that fight back?

Just to be clear, I am talking in hypotheticals here, NOT: 1. about me personally, 2. about anything I intend to do, or 3. anything that I would condone anyone else do.

Also, these hypotheticals aren’t just in response to Chinese SOP, it’s to fight digital fascism worldwide, including in the US.

So your answer is to just roll over and take it?

renato (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Where are the devices that fight back?

This can work if they are just looking for some specific apps/chat logs.

But, it is not that simple to create a fake benign container.
You must consider the metadata that leaks from your devices and create something to match it.
A VPN might reduce the complexity of the content creation, but it might not be enough if they still have access from other sources to compare the data.

Sayonara Felicia-San (profile) says:

Re: Where are the devices that fight back?

A better idea might be the creation of phones or phone software which intentionally “poisons the well” so to speak with garbage information and location data.

If I was a wealthy drug dealer or DNC chair, I’d pay a hacker to create some software that routinely sent out shit data on 10-20 throwaway phones. See if Palentir can make any sense of that.

If I were less technologically inclined, I could achieve potentially the same effect by hiring H1B’s to drive around Ubers with shitty data phones.

The non-violent possibilities are endless

renato (profile) says:

Re: Re: Where are the devices that fight back?

There is a short-story by Cory Doctorow that goes that way.
It is called ‘Scroogled’.

I would really like to see something like that to shift your search/ads results to a different profile.
But with an ad-block I have no idea what kind of ad was tailored for me.

Sayonara Felicia-San (profile) says:

That's not how it works in the US.

In the US, the NSA has the ‘tech’ and feeds local law enforcement the information.

Then it’s the local police officers job to create a false pretense to “legally” search and/or detain the “innocent-until-proven-guilty” pre-convicted alleged crook. (aka parallel construction)

Sometimes, a cop will get a stingray with some extra asset forfeiture money, but it’s more of a hobby to kill time and such.

In the words of the great pock marked philosopher Eric Schmidt: “If You Have Something You Don’t Want Anyone To Know, and you aren’t in the 1%, Maybe You Shouldn’t Be Doing It”

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