Of late, there have been growing worries globally that China might be trying to infiltrate the security and communication systems of other nations by flooding markets with its tech products. Samantha Hoffman, an analyst of Chinese security issues at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), believes that Chinese smartphones are a big security threat to the world.
In an interview with The Guardian, Hoffman states that people should be cautious when buying smartphones and other smart products manufactured in China. “You don’t really know how that data is being collected and potentially used to shape your opinion and shape your decisions, among other things. Even understanding advertising and consumer preferences can feed into propaganda. Taken together, that can be used to influence an election or feelings about a particular issue,” she said in the interview.
Hoffman warns that it is easy to be tempted by the benefits of modern technologies to share our private information. And the Chinese government is going to take full advantage of all the weaknesses of liberal, open democracies like the U.S. and Europe. The fact that the West has weak data safety laws plays into the hands of Beijing as they are hungry to collect as much information on Western citizens as possible. Though Samantha believes that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) initiative of the EU is a good step in protecting privacy, she is worried that it may not be enough.
The analyst is also concerned about the commercial deals Huawei has been signing with other nations. Many of the agreements are concerned with public security, facial recognition, and identifying license plates. All data collected by Huawei will inevitably be sent to China where it will be used by the communist regime to further the totalitarian agenda. For instance, a Turkish mobile provider, Turkcell, has entered into a contract with Huawei. The country has almost 10,000 Uyghurs living in exile. Huawei can easily use its access to Turkcell to track, monitor, and harass these families by threatening their relatives back home.
Social Credit System
In addition to China’s smartphone infiltration, another worrying factor is the Social Credit System that the regime has implemented in the country. The system “relies on collecting and analyzing metadata to shape and “score” individual citizens’ economic and social behavior. The effect fuels both passive participation (state access to personal data linked to everyday conveniences) and active participation (coercing people into allowing the state to monitor and punish individuals for non-compliance),” Michael Clarke, Associate Professor, National Security College, writes in an article.
Basically, the state tracks everything you do in your life, from the posts you like on social media to the money you spend on alcohol or vegetables, how timely you have been with your loan repayments, which places you have visited, and more. Based on all such information, the Social Credit System assigns a score that is used to judge whether a person should have access to a service or not and whether he is “high-class” or “low-class.”
Just last year, almost 17.5 million people were blocked from buying flight tickets since their Social Credit System score was low. The bigger problem is that other authoritarian regimes in Africa, South America, and the Middle East, have shown interest in the system. If these nations use China’s Social Credit System, it will end up providing China with even more data on people all across the world.