Any item you shop, any ride you take, or any place you eat — there’s a good chance that authorities are sniffing your data. Interestingly, the Chinese government doesn’t need to build specialized infrastructure for this spying.
Instead, an entire network of private and state-owned organizations are collecting data and sending it to the government. These revelations came into the spotlight as a result of a study carried out by The Citizen Lab, a group of researchers at the University of Toronto.
The Citizen Lab’s director, Robald Deibert, says that one can easily assume that Chinese social media and digital technology is supporting the regime, according to CBC.
The Chinese authorities have tons of data about what the individuals are doing at a micro level.” This is being done in ways that haven’t been seen before.
Talking about the Chinese technology giants that play a big part in the whole scheme, WeChat turns out to be the biggest culprit. It’s used by virtually every online Chinese person. The app uses keyword filtering for the users whose accounts are registered to mainland China phone numbers. This censorship is dynamic and opaque. If the users move outside China, they are still tracked.
CBC cites an investigation lead by a leading Chinese daily that bought massive amounts of data for just a little cash. Just think about the border entry and exit records, bank records, real estate transactions, trips made — and you can get everything for a low price of 700 yuan, or $140 Cdn.
In China, there are numerous advertisements for online tracking services. Some of them can provide pinpoint locations in real time. While this data mostly comes from telecom companies, some sensitive information is only available from government sources.