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China’s new surveillance system targets journalists, foreign students

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In its bid to create one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance technology networks, China’s Henan province is has commissioned a surveillance system which, according to them, can be used to track journalists and international students, among other suspicious students. 

According to a Reuters report, a tender document published on the Henan provincial government’s procurement site shows plans for a system capable of compiling individual files on people of interest arriving in the province. The system uses the 3000 facial recognition cameras connected to various national and regional databases. 

The tender was posted on July 28, and by September 17, a Chinese tech company Neusoft was awarded the contract costing five million yuan or approximately 7,82,00u USD. The company was required to finish the system within two months of signing the contract. 

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Seeing too far ahead?

The system was first discovered by US-based surveillance research company IPVM. According to IPVM, the tender was the only one explicitly specifying journalists as surveillance targets, including a blueprint for public security authorities to help locate said targets. 

The tender doesn’t specify why it needs to track journalists or international students. Illegal women residents from neighbouring countries was another category on the list. The system is required to detect half-covered faces with glasses or masks, and the targets should be searchable by uploading a photo or searching for facial features. 

Journalists are divided into three categories — green, yellow and red, with green being the safest and red the most dangerous. Warnings will be set off if a journalist while in Henan checks into a hotel, buys a ticket or crosses any provincial borders. 

Different police forces across the province will be connected to the system for a response if a warning is triggered. At least 2000 officials and police officers are supposed to operate the network. There are details of early warning systems for other groups as well. 

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: yadullahabidi@pm.me.

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