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Police In China Are Reportedly Using American Technology To Spy On Citizens

(Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Security forces in China have been using software made by American technology company Oracle to surveil and police the population there, according to a new report from The Intercept.

Oracle’s products were used by multiple law enforcement entities in China to analyze big data and aid in surveillance and tracking of citizens, according to the report. One place Oracle’s security services were allegedly used is Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is detaining an unknown number of Uighur Muslims and is committing what the U.S. government has deemed a genocide.

One slideshow hosted on Oracle’s website lists four products apparently used by police in Liaoning province to do “criminal analysis and prediction.” The presentation, reportedly given at Oracle’s California headquarters in 2018, outlines how police in Liaoning were able to sift through vast swathes of data using Oracle’s platforms to “identify potential suspects.”

Oracle’s marketing materials allegedly claimed the company could help Chinese law enforcement utilize information from social media activity, facial recognition software, DNA databases, and more. A spokesperson for Oracle, Jessica Moore, told The Intercept that the presentations were simply theoretical and that all transactions the company makes in China are fully compliant with U.S. export controls and sanctions.

However, despite the denial from Moore that the company’s technology had actually been used by Chinese security forces as described in the slides, former Oracle Senior Director Xavier Lopez told a different story.

“The police province in China used the software,” Lopez told The Intercept. “The data didn’t come from us. The data came from the province. The province uses the software, they license the software to use for different things, for different use cases. And this was one example of when they used it for that particular use case.”

The report also says that Oracle targeted some marketing material towards Chinese military actors, although it isn’t clear that any Chinese military entities currently use Oracle products. Oracle allegedly created multiple Chinese-language marketing presentations that target China’s People’s Liberation Army, as well as other national security entities in the country. (RELATED: Head Of Blue-Ribbon COVID Commission Has History Of Praising China, Criticizing US)

The company, with its “team America” marketing, boasts that it has contracts with all five branches of the U.S. military, according to The Intercept. It reportedly has had recent or forthcoming agreements with NASA, the CIA, and a number of American police departments. Co-founder Larry Ellison told Fox Business in 2018 that in the competition between China and the U.S., “I’m on team USA.”

Oracle used its successful cooperation with the American military industrial complex to market its services to Chinese customers, according to the report. At least one presentation reportedly cited Oracle’s U.S. defense work in an attempt to win Chinese cloud computing contracts.

Using big data has been a key part of Beijing’s repressive security tactics, according to experts. Chinese leaders have reportedly prioritized a preventative security focus, with President Xi Jinping describing a need to prevent unexpected “black swan” events that could destabilize the country.

“The logic is that it’s no longer sufficient to react to events, because by then it’s too late,” Oxford Ph.D. student and Chinese policing researcher Edward Schwarck told The Intercept. (RELATED: Biden Told Senators China ‘Will Eat Our Lunch’ After Call With Xi Jinping, Report Says)

“Everyone is using phones, using WeChat, using all these devices that can be tracked and that can generate a lot of data points,” Daniel Sprick, China legal expert at the University of Cologne, said to The Intercept. Oracle has been marketing its products to China for those purposes since at least 2010, according to the report. One Chinese-language presentation reportedly claims Oracle can provide “a more complete platform to meet the needs of public security big data processing.”

Perhaps most concerning is the company’s work in Xinjiang. A publicly available list of Oracle clients lists the public security division in Xinjiang as a recipient of “data security solutions.” Moore admitted to The Intercept that Oracle had “limited authorized transactions” with Xinjiang Public Security Bureau between 2011 and 2019. The Uighur genocide taking place in the province was publicly known in some form since at least 2017.