A new, in-depth story by Naomi Klein examines “Golden Shield,” China’s prototype for a high-tech police state. She says that China is building its systems with the help of U.S. defense contractors, that the global homeland-security business is bigger than Hollywood and the music industry combined, and that the U.S. Government is mining China’s experiences for ideas for its own surveillance programs.
- China’s All-Seeing Eye, by Naomi Klein, Rollingstone, May 29, 2008. “Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.”
Klein says that the United States is providing China’s rulers with something even more valuable than surveillance technology: “…the ability to claim that they are just like us. Liu Zhengrong, a senior official dealing with China’s Internet policy, has defended Golden Shield and other repressive measures by invoking the Patriot Act and the FBI’s massive e-mail-mining operations.” And, the Chinese rationalize surveillance of their own citizens the same way many do in the United States: “If you are a law-abiding citizen, you shouldn’t be afraid… The criminals are the only ones who should be afraid.” (See also: Privacy: “I have nothing to hide” and Privacy and the “Terrorist Surveillance Act.”)
Klein notes that human-rights activists say that although the surveillance tools used by China and the U.S. are the same, the political contexts are radically different. “China has a government that uses its high-tech web to imprison and torture peaceful protesters, Tibetan monks and independent-minded journalists.” But she also notes that Guantánamo Bay, the erosion of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal searches and seizures, and the fact that the U.S. currently has more people behind bars than China despite a population less than a quarter of its size all mean that “the lines are getting awfully blurry.”
What relevance does this have for government information specialists? As we at FGI have pointed out before, when the only “authentic” copy of government information is available from government-controlled computers rather than from privacy-protecting libraries, the freedom to read is eroded and the infrastructure for government spying on what you are reading is enabled. (See also: Will GPO guarantee user privacy? Can it?.)
See also: China’s Golden Shield: Corporations and the Development of Surveillance Technology in the People’s Republic of China, by Greg Walton, October 2001, Rights & Democracy.
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