US Tech Giants Are Helping To Build China’s Surveillance State
Source: The Intercept, Ryan Gallagher, July 11, 2019
…Shenzhen-based Semptian[‘s]…[Aegis] technology is being used to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people….
After receiving tips from confidential sources about Semptian’s role in mass surveillance, a reporter contacted the company using an assumed name and posing as a potential customer. In response, a Semptian employee sent documents showing that the company — under the guise of iNext — has developed a mass surveillance system named Aegis, which it says can “store and analyze unlimited data.”
Aegis can provide “a full view to the virtual world,” the company claims in the documents, allowing government spies to see “the connections of everyone,” including “location information for everyone in the country.”…
Aegis equipment has been placed within China’s phone and internet networks, enabling the country’s government to secretly collect people’s email records, phone calls, text messages, cellphone locations, and web browsing histories, according to two sources familiar with Semptian’s work.
Chinese state security agencies are likely using the technology to target human rights activists, pro-democracy advocates, and critics of President Xi Jinping’s regime, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals….
“Aegis is unlimited, we are dealing with thousands Tbps [terabits per second] in China more than 200 million population,” Zhu Wenying, a Semptian employee, wrote in an April message.
There are an estimated 800 million internet users in China, meaning that if Zhu’s figure is accurate, Semptian’s technology is monitoring a quarter of the country’s total online population. The volume of data the company claims its systems are handling — thousands of terabits per second — is staggering: An internet connection that is 1,000 terabits per second could transfer 3.75 million hours of high-definition video every minute.
Middle East Dictators Buy Spy Tech From Semptian, a Chinese Company Linked to Google and IBM
Source: The Intercept, Ryan Gallagher, July 12, 2019
Semptian’s equipment is helping China’s ruling Communist Party regime covertly monitor the internet and cellphone activity of up to 200 million people across the East Asian country, sifting through vast amounts of private data every day.
But the company’s reach extends far beyond China. In recent years, it has been marketing its technologies globally.
After receiving tips from confidential sources about Semptian’s role in mass surveillance, a reporter contacted the company using an assumed name and posing as a potential customer. In emails, a Semptian representative confirmed that the company had provided its surveillance tools to security agencies in the Middle East and North Africa — and said it had fitted a mass surveillance system in an unnamed country, creating a digital dragnet across its entire population….
Similar equipment has been used for years by Western intelligence agencies and police. However, thanks in part to companies like Semptian, the technology is increasingly finding its way into the hands of security forces in undemocratic countries where dissidents are jailed, tortured, and in some cases executed.
“We’ve seen regular and shocking examples of how surveillance is being used by governments around the world to stay in power by targeting activists, journalists, and opposition members,” said Gus Hosein, executive director of London-based human rights group Privacy International….
China’s Social Credit Tyranny with American Characteristics
Source: International Policy Digest by Felix Imonti, October 2019
For China, technology is a weapon that is to be used to dominate the world. A number of American high-tech corporations are helping China to achieve the objective.
Long before Xi Jinping introduced in 2014 the Social Credit system that is supposed to be fully functioning by 2020, a forerunner existed for more than a century in the United States. The early form of what is a credit bureau appeared in 1899 under the name of the Retail Credit Company to be rebranded Equifax in 1975. It has been followed by Trans-Union and Experian that comprised the three main bureaus in the U.S.
Credit bureaus focus on the negative aspects of an individual. Someone habitually late in paying or failing to meet obligations will get a negative score that means that credit is either unavailable or comes at a higher cost. The appearance in the last few decades of Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and other social pages mean that there is a parallel massive accumulation of data. By matching data sets, it is possible to re-identify an individual and to place that person into a profile that can be used to anticipate future behavior. How the information is used will depend upon who is collecting it and why.
Because the American system is conducted by private businesses without political leverage, how data can be used is limited. Combine the data collection with the political authority of the state and the environment changes. The Chinese social credit system can turn information into broad punishment for the defiant or reward for the compliant. Someone with a low credit score can be refused a passport or employment. Seven million Chinese have been denied airline tickets due to their scores…. Every bit of information goes into a personal file, Dang’an. The system was created by Mao Zedong and is available only to the authorities.
Five hundred million of the eight hundred million people online use fintech facilities for most of their financial activities. With each transaction, they are leaving a data trail. Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, and other corporations funnel data to data banks where information from government offices, the police, employers and social groups is compiled and evaluated. “The line between private companies and state institutions is often quite blurred,” says Maya Wang from Human Rights Watch.
When the system reaches the level of a cashless society, that will complete the entrapping of the entire population in a digital prison. By freezing a person’s credit and debit cards, an individual will not be able to live….
For the first time in history, technology is giving the Communist Party of China the means to control every aspect of life. The key is the gathering and evaluating of information to uncover any threat to political stability…. Facebook enables officials to keep posts from appearing on people’s news feeds in specific geographic areas. Google has been designing the search engine Dragon Fly that denies access to restricted information. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM are complying with a law that requires them to store data within China where the authorities have access to it….
Semptian Corporation joined [the OpenPower Foundation] in September 2015, and it is this corporation that has aroused concern about how American high-tech businesses are aiding in building the power of the Chinese police state….
A program known as Aegis is claimed by the company to be able to maintain surveillance of the entire country, track anyone’s movements by a cellphone, and to monitor the contents of telephone calls and emails…. Semptian is to participate in the Milipol security trade fair in Paris in November 2022 to market its technology to the world. China is exporting the means for authoritarian governments to be able to isolate their populations behind the Aegis shield.