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China has been increasing its surveillance measures regarding its population in what seems to be another step towards the “Big Brother” concept. The Chinese government will mandate the installation of a radio-frequency identification chip on all new vehicles in the country.
The mandatory measure will start 2 in 2019, and is meant to help ease traffic congestion and improve public security, reports wsj.com, which first reported the news. China already tracks the movement of vehicles across the country using cameras and license plate recognition technology, but a new electronic identification system will provide the government with even more extensive and accurate data to keep tabs on its citizens.
“The Chinese government has invested heavily in new technologies with the aim of building a ‘multidimensional’ surveillance state to pre-empt threats to its grip on power,” Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Inkstonenews.com. Since China has limited privacy and data collection laws, “citizens remain completely defenseless against state surveillance,” she said.
Using data from RFID (radio-frequency identification) transponders to locate and prosecute criminal suspects is one thing, but the technology also opens the door to other kinds of tracking, raising privacy concerns.
The program is being put in place by China’s Ministry of Public Security, and the ministry’s Traffic Management Research Institute. By installing RFID chips on the windshields of new cars, and reading devices on the side of China’s roads, government officials reportedly hope to be able to study and improve congestion, therefore helping to reduce pollution — a major priority for China’s president Xi Jinping, according to theverge.com. The system wouldn’t be able to locate a car at any given moment or location, like with GPS, and it’s unclear how much information the government plans to store on each chip beyond the color of the car and its license plate number.