Proven guilty before the crime? China using big data to detain “suspicious” individuals before any crime is even committed
03/23/2018 // David Williams // Views

Chinese citizens are already under an enormous amount of pressure to "fall in line" as it is, what with all of the surveillance going on inside of the country's borders, but now the Chinese government have taken things one step further yet again. Based on a report unearthed by Human Rights Watch, China now has a fully-functional real-time system that marks "suspicious" individuals and arrest them shortly thereafter before they've even committed any crimes.

This system, reportedly dubbed the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), uses "big data" to perform its pre-programmed tasks. It takes data from various banking records, facial-recognition cameras, license plate cameras, police check points, police reports, and even Wi-Fi internet sniffers in order to make any "decisions" regarding suspect individuals.

According to a report, the system can see all of the activity of China's citizens and immediately flag anything that's suspicious, such as a huge purchase of fertilizer all at one time, then notify the police. They are then expected to respond to the suspicious activity flagged on the same day, and are authorized to act based on what they do find.

According to Maya Wang, a senior China researchers at Human Rights Watch, her organization has been able to document the connection between detentions and so-called big data programs. "We are no longer saying that mass surveillance is deeply and widely intrusive when it comes to privacy rights, which of course is a big alarm," she explained.

"It goes further than that. People are being detained in an arbitrary manner because they are put in these political-education facilities."


The system, which has been deployed and in use already in China's far Western Xinjiang region, is reportedly meant to be implemented on "political education centers." But the methods being applied in these facilities aren't geared towards any real education at all, according to reports. It is said that the re-education involves forcibly detaining people for months on end, even when no charges have been pressed against them, just so they can be inculcated in political doctrine that's deemed acceptable by the Chinese state.

Though largely unreliable and, according to Wang, "often exacerbates some of the biases," China has already decided to put a lot of trust in this new system. It's built upon ideas of Chinese police theorists, who have identified certain "extremist behaviors, which include if you store a large amount of food in your home, if your child suddenly quits school and so on," she said. When a computer is trained on how to search for these particular parameters, you'll end up with "a big data program modeled upon pretty racist ideas about peaceful behaviors that are part of a Uyghur identity."

The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group living in East and Central Asia that are prone to discrimination in the region.

Although considered a massive violation of human rights and privacy to citizens who are living in many developed countries, this latest move by China can be considered business as usual. A similar system was already in place even before this new one was implemented. The only difference here is, now they're doing it with the help of technology.

One police officer named Xu Linglei, who took part in an interview with the Chinese Nanfang magazine, remarked that the system is working perfectly for what it was designed for. "Before the application of big data, police often only arrested people after they had committed wrongdoings and the victims suffered a losses as a result," he stated.

"Now, relying on information technology, then can take preventive measures in advance."

Could you live in such a society? Would you like to see something similar implemented where you live?

See other ways that human rights and privacy get violated in

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