Category : Technology
Chineses are known for their controversial practices violating the privacy of citizens and with each passing day they strengthen us in the belief that no international action can change this.
We just wrote about another idea of the Chinese authorities, namely changes in the provisions regarding the conclusion of contracts with mobile network operators, which entered into force on December 1. As part of this next attempt to connect the citizens' real identities with the digital ones, customers must not only show their ID card, but also agree to face scanning for identity verification to buy a phone and choose a subscription. Theoretically, this is supposed to limit the number of frauds related to identity theft, but we all know what it is all about.
Now we are learning about another blow to the privacy of Chinese citizens, and more specifically Uyghurs and other national minorities who live mainly in the Sinciang region full of surveillance systems. The authorities no longer hide the fact that they use face recognition on the agenda, in November they began tests to check the feasibility of the emotion recognition system, and now they are going to implement another plan. This is probably the most controversial of ideas to date and pushes further moral boundaries.
As the New York Times reports, Chinese researchers began collecting blood samples from Uyghurs from the city of Tumxuk, where about a million of them are detained in the so-called re-education camps. The DNA samples thus obtained want to use to generate a sketch of human faces, this technique is called DNA phenotyping and works by analyzing genes related to origin, complexion, eye color, facial features and gender. Interestingly, its origins should be sought in the West, where the services wanted to reduce the number of suspects in difficult criminal cases.
We also use the same method to generate facial features of our ancestors when we only have samples of their DNA available. Even after years of using and improving this method, scientists are not sure of its effectiveness as a tool for identifying specific people. Our current level of understanding genes is not sufficient to 100% predict what someone looks like based on them, especially since additional factors such as age and weight must also be taken into account.
Shortly, we are still years away from using DNA phenotyping as a reliable forensic tool, if at all we can ever reach this point. Chinese, however, are not going to wait, especially when it comes to other ways of surveillance inconvenient citizens. It’s the fact that we have no idea whether the people sampled were subjected to the process of their own free will, and given that they were in internment camps, no one asked them anything.
Well, European countries are setting new rules to protect the privacy of their citizens from foreigners and third-parties. United States also have precise regulations on this topic. But China prefers to stay away from the laws and rules which are very important for citizens' private life.
It's quite obvious that China is the super power country with its high quality technology products and exports to all over the world. However, we hope that one day they will start thinking about privacy and freedom for their citizens. It's the most important topic if we compare to many other problems.