The iphone is a gift for autocrats
The Diplomat (Tokyo)
The Chinese government has long sought the means to keep closer tabs on its citizens, says Eugene K. Chow, and it now has the perfect tool through which to do it: the smartphone. These ubiquitous devices provide an instant window into people’s browsing history, purchases and location. Almost 80% of all smartphone owners in China, for example, use Wechat. Far more than just a messaging app, it’s a hub through which people access the internet and other services; you can use it to pay for things, check a flight, get bank statements, make a doctor’s appointment or search for books. The Chinese government has made no secret of its efforts to integrate such data into its surveillance apparatus. Indeed, it’s planning to create a “social credit” rating system that will draw on exactly such databases, logging what individuals buy and look at on the Web, and noting infractions such as not paying bills or violating family-planning rules. Those with low scores will have a harder time travelling, and will be barred from certain privileges. The “technologies that once promised freedom and openness” are helping China’s authoritarian rulers build a “digital panopticon”.