How China uses mass surveillance and big data to deal with social unrest
According to the US security firm Statfor the Chinese government has been builsing a system to analyse the massive amounts of data it has been collecting over the past years. The company claims: "The new grid management system aims to help the Chinese government act early to contain social unrest. Under the new program, grid administrators each monitor a number of households (sometimes as many as 200). They then aggregate their reports into one enormous surveillance database, where it is combined with data collected from video cameras and web censoring. Authorities can analyze that data to detect trends in hopes of anticipating protests or disturbances. For instance, if more than three protests occur in one town within a certain period, the new system could alert administrators, who could then send more police to that area or make other policy adjustments to maintain stability."
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Industry is gaining insights into and intelligence on our lives that were previously possessed by powerful Intelligence Agencies, and tomorrow their potential may exceed them. In the future, industry giants will have more insight into the world than the most powerful intelligence agencies. What they know and represent about us will have significant effects on individuals, groups, and whole societies.
As a result of design choices in modern technologies, individual and collective behaviour is increasingly traceable. Metadata and logs, and other forms of observed data are generated of every interaction. The growing stores of data that companies and governments hold about individuals and groups is now automatically generated from human behaviour. This is at odds with how most users understand privacy as being about what they knowingly and overtly disclose to companies.
Powerful institutions with access to data now have unprecedented population-level knowledge about individuals, groups, communities, and whole nations and markets. With this knowledge they will have insight and intelligence on patterns of behaviour and other trends. They may identify customary behaviours and activities, as well as deviations. Even as these categories become divorced from the individual pieces of personal data, they provide powerful insights into how groups, societies and markets function. And they will likely be kept secret or understandable to the few. While monopolies are traditionally measured in terms of market power, this raises the question of how the data economy needs new ways to measure what qualifies as dominance in the marketplace.
Monitoring behaviour, generating profiles, creating dominance
Individuals should have control over the data generated about their activities, conduct, devices, and interactions, and be able to determine who is gaining this intelligence and how it is to be used.