Report: China To Start Tracking Cars, Adding To Its Already Vast Surveillance Arsenal

Eric Lieberman | Tech and Law Reporter

China is set to intensify its surveillance practices by tracking cars within the country through an electronic identification system, according to a report published Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.

Through a program, which is set to officially launch July 1, all vehicles registered within China will be equipped with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip that will allow authorities to track it. The technology will reportedly be appended to the windshields and will interact with reading devices situated on roads.

The initiative is going to be implemented by China’s Ministry of Public Security and Traffic Management Research Institute, reported TheWSJ. It adds to an already formidable surveillance apparatus for the world’s largest nation by population.

Many places within China are considered the most surveilled among the world with facial scanners in average places like plazas and shopping malls — and even bathrooms, although, in that case, it’s ostensibly to stop toilet paper thievery. Police tested artificially intelligent sunglasses earlier in 2018 that have built-in facial recognition technology to scan the public as they pass by.

The latest attempt to monitor its people is voluntary in the beginning, but will be required for all new cars starting in January 2019, according to TheWSJ.

Chinese authorities, as usual, claim their intentions are benevolent, or at least in the people’s best interests. The tagged cars will allegedly help alleviate traffic in a country that appears to have some of the worst, potentially contributing to headaches both through lost time and increased pollution.

Nevertheless, having the ability to follow in realtime or retroactively trace the whereabouts of almost all car owners could be its biggest step in keeping its citizens submissive, or at least weary of drawing the ire of the state. (RELATED: Christians Fight Chinese Government Over Surveillance Cameras In Churches)

“It’s all happening in the backdrop of this pretty authoritarian government,” Ben Green, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, told TheWSJ. “It’s really hard to imagine that the primary use case is not law enforcement surveillance and other forms of social control.”

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