The New York Times is reporting that China is deploying multiple methods to track its citizens. In addition to a large number of surveillance cameras in Southern China, the province of Shenzhen is giving its citizens ID cards that store large amounts of information about them.
Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.
Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card.
It’s not just citizens that are being tracked. Chinese police officers are tracked realtime and the police department can watch its officers on a map. In theory it is to prevent crime (and I am sure this tech will help with that regard), but it is also being done to keep track of a now affluent citizenry. Scary.
I wonder what else the province leadership are using to keep track of their citizens. Obviously realtime is a goal. Cellphones? Unreported RFID chips? It seems like Shenzhen is just a test, perhaps realtime tracking will happen in future locations.