FEATURE- Activists fear rising surveillance from Asia's digital Silk Road

TECHNOLOGY
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* China pushes global adoption of surveillance technology * State AI-based system targets activists and protesters

* Authorities say technology is needed for security purposes

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Above each speaker after flying low over a crowd of demonstrators carrying banners and chanting slogans outside the NagaWorld casino in the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh. flew the As they sought justice. Armed riot police and surveillance as hundreds of workers went on strike outside the glass and chrome towers of the company’s hotel and casino complex, demanding the reinstatement of some 400 employees laid off last year. Cameras continued to monitor.

“We knew we were being recorded, but we couldn’t do anything, so we were waving at the drones,” he said, along with a dozen others at a protest in January. Chim Sitar, a 34-year-old union leader who was arrested, said. He was put in prison for nine weeks. Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp said the strike, which began in December, was illegal and the layoffs were a “mutual separation plan” to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city police said the workers’ strike was illegal and a threat to public order and safety. Police have charged some protesters with “incitement to cause serious disruption to social security.” Cambodian rights activists, including Chim Sitar, say they are under constant surveillance, with software, cameras and drones tracking all their online and offline movements.

Much of the technology comes from China, which sells large-scale digital surveillance packages to the government under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure project. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched his One Belt, One Road initiative in 2013, leveraging China’s strengths in financing and infrastructure building to “build broad communities of shared interests” across Asia, Africa and Latin America. aimed to do

According to local media reports, China has installed more than 1,000 CCTV cameras in Phnom Penh as part of a new nationwide surveillance system. Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan denied the technology was being used to target activists and union leaders.

“CCTV and other surveillance infrastructure is for security purposes to combat crime, traffic violations and other illegal activities,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.Chinese influence

Authorities justify surveillance on security grounds, but human rights groups have expressed concerns about privacy violations and the potential for profiling and discrimination, and the technology is often deployed without public consultation, leaving powerful Data protection laws do not exist. Countries participating in the BRI are advocating for the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence-based facial recognition systems related to abuses of China’s Uyghur minority for smart policing and smart city programs, as well as for monitoring social media sites. I use digital tools.

Steven Feldstein, Senior Fellow of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), a Washington-based think tank, said: DC “It’s clear that in an authoritarian environment, these features can deepen oppression,” Feldstein said, noting that China’s artificial intelligence (AI) surveillance technology could help him reach his BRI above 50. We presume it is deployed in Member States.

An important part of China’s BRI program is the so-called Digital Silk Road. This is an initiative aimed at building a modern telecommunications and data infrastructure between countries lying on the ancient Silk Road trade routes. China’s involvement ranges from high-tech companies building undersea internet cables, data centers and mobile towers to countries copying cyber laws and internet gateways to control the flow of data and information, said the Alliance for Democracy and Security. (ASD) said in a recent report. A think tank based in the United States.

“There is a risk that the Chinese state can collect data, whether it’s genetic surveillance information or more traditional political opinions and activities through these systems,” said Lindsey Gorman, senior fellow for emerging technologies at ASD. It would be useful information,” he said. “There are real questions about where the data that powers these surveillance systems is stored, who owns it and who benefits from it,” she said.

The Chinese embassy in Cambodia was not immediately available for comment. Chinese officials say technology surveillance is essential to fighting crime and preventing the spread of COVID-19, denying reports of using technology to enable abuses of Uyghurs . ‘Everyone’s afraid’

In Myanmar, where the military overthrew the elected government last year and launched a bloody crackdown on protests and dissent, Chinese companies are rolling out 4G and 5G networks and facial recognition systems in some cities. The junta has adopted cyber laws similar to China, including limiting internet access to certain her websites and banning social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

A spokesperson for the military government did not respond to a request for comment. Officials have previously said the facial recognition system is needed to maintain security and “civil peace.” But Su, a lawyer who provides legal assistance to political prisoners in Mandalay city, appears to be “further feared” after reports of him using CCTV and facial recognition to target protesters. Became.

“We know it’s dangerous for activists because the police will take CCTV recordings as evidence in court,” said Xu, 26, using a pseudonym for fear of retaliation. I wore a mask when I went to prison to meet with him, not because I was afraid of COVID-19, but because I wanted to cover my face.

“We are all afraid of CCTV.”

Around the world, the rise of AI technology has led to a proliferation of large-scale surveillance systems such as facial recognition and voice recognition for applications ranging from tracking criminals to recording student attendance. “Technology has changed the way governments carry out surveillance and the nature of what they choose to be monitored,” Feldstein said.

In Cambodia, authorities are building a nationwide internet gateway, similar to China’s internet firewall that blocks websites and social media platforms, but these systems offer little transparency, the nonprofit said. Chak Sopheap of the Cambodian Human Rights Center said: “The government does not disclose information about the data collected and how they are used by authorities. This lack of transparency is very problematic,” she said.

“The use of such technology impacts the privacy rights of people, especially those who do not support the government, and gives Cambodian authorities an additional tool to crack down on critical voices and dissidents.” In Phnom Penh, trade union leader Chim Sitar and her fellow protesters are adjusting. They turn off their phones, use virtual private networks (VPNs) and encrypted chat groups, and hold more face-to-face meetings where they refrain from posting on social media.

“This feeling of being constantly watched and tracked is exhausting,” she said. “You can’t do anything without the police knowing. It’s scary.”

Original publication: https://news.trust.org/item/20220916141742-50wrb

(This article is not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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