China is known for its strict citizen surveillance and monitoring.
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Moreover, China’s Internet censorship is considered to be highly extreme due to many regulations and sets of rules. While only certain VPNs like NordVPN can bypass the Great Chinese Firewall, the country also shows the most advanced control of its citizens, whether it is real time or online.
by Jolie Lenkewicz
Surely, the censorship comes from the government wanting to avoid any criticism that cannot be controlled and neutralize it before controversial opinions are spread and are more difficult to contain. There are many methods that the Chinese government is using to monitor its online users as well as spy on them in the streets, in real time.
China uses facial recognition cameras as well as GPS tracking to be able to gather real time information on its citizens. There are more than 20 million cameras spying on every move the citizens make as well as all the relevant data like their age and gender come up. Also, the cameras can even identify vehicles, their color and type. This surveillance system is called “SkyNet”. While the government states that such surveillance would help to point out fugitives, criminals and those prone to criminal behavior, it would just further the already extremely high level of spying and monitoring.
Though the most disturbing is China’s plan to create a social credit score to be able to spy on its citizens even more than thought possible. A lot of different areas will come into play here when “evaluating” the individual – financial status, lifestyle, purchases, social behavior, political views and so on. The government wants to be able to access a person’s personal records such as financial details, medical information and more with only a click of a button.
When talking about Internet surveillance, there are many methods to track down users. Mainly user IP address is used. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) closely monitor keywords and keyword combinations that users type in and search for. Also, ISPs take into consideration when users try to access certain websites that are blocked by the government and do circumvent the hosting servers. More and more web addresses are added by the government to the blocked website list. Another method used is DNS redirection that redirects users from a certain webpage to a message or a website that says that the wanted site cannot be reached. Some websites are blocked due to having certain keywords in their URL that are deemed inappropriate.
Social media and discussion forums are censored very fast, as you need to register with your real name, moreover, your cell phone number is often needed when registering and is tied to your social accounts. Any negative feedback or comment is quickly deleted, and the user is easily found out. Furthermore, businesses have their own set of rules handed to them that need to be followed. For example, all companies that operate in China have to share their private data, whether it’s a foreign or a domestic company.
In addition, virtual private networks (VPNs) that help to access blocked websites and avoid monitoring, helping the users to stay anonymous online have been having a rough time since 2012, when the Great Firewall was able to detect VPN services and started blocking them. At first the blocking was not as severe, but it grew far more intense as the years passed. However, there are still VPNs like NordVPN that can overcome the Great Chinese Firewall and still provide VPN services to online users.
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Also published on Medium.