Earlier in October 2018, the Chinese government passed a law that grants local and central law enforcement the ability to enter the premises of any internet service providers (ISPs) or internet service companies (read: VPN companies) to inspect and copy anything. SCMP reports that this new law tightens China’s control of its cyberspace, which already features a Great Firewall. It goes on top of a law passed in 2016 that mandates ISPs store 6 months of IP address connection data and makes it very clear that your internet traffic is available to be monitored. To be clear, these Chinese datacenters are logging way more than just metadata – and this data is now available without a warrant or any semblance of rule of law.
The Chinese Government does more than try to log everything on their internet
Travelers entering China’s Xinjiang province from the west are often asked to install a surveillance app on their phone called Jingwang. Even in 2018, redditors have reported being forced to install the Jingwang spyware when entering China. On the streets, local police have set up checkpoints to make sure that residents have the Jingwang spyware installed on their phone.
China’s influence on mass surveillance in the Western world
The craziest thing is that there are likely politicians in every country that are looking at this and thinking… wow that’s a great idea. There are likely politicians that already have plans to introduce similar legislation once more news comes out of China about social credit scores, facial recognition, and forced spyware installation. That is a scary thought. On the heels of China getting bloodied first in the public perception of facial recognition as mass surveillance, Amazon and local schools are also moving the needle on this in the Western world.
In fact, some countries already have a version of this enacted. In countries like the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Italy, and others, ISPs are mandated to store logs for anywhere from 6 months to a few years. This information is sometimes even available to government agencies that are not law enforcement related at all – and sometimes without a warrant.