The news that the Chinese government is toying with the idea of setting up ‘network security’ offices in some of China’s major internet companies may strike a somewhat Orwellian chord with some. The intention is to move quickly against potential illegal online behaviour, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
This somewhat encroaching plan is all in the name of cyber security, but at what point are the liberties of the Chinese overshadowed by an always watching’ Big Brother? And what parallels can be drawn when looking outward from China toward the rest of the world’s ever more restrictive internet regulations and policing?
Those most up in arms about government tactics to monitor and compromise the privacy of service providers’ users can draw strong parallels with the NSA’s appropriately titled ‘Fairview’ program.
Recently, a report published by the New York Times detailed evidence that the NSA was working in tandem with one of the USA’s largest carriers, AT&T, to spy on the United Nations office in New York City. The report outlined the ways in which the NSA infiltrated the UN building in conjunction with the supplier to monitor the video conferencing systems, tap phone lines and reportedly, read emails.
It is easy to condemn when attacks on the liberties of others are occurring in plain sight, such as the aforementioned Chinese initiative. However, as soon as you shift the blame, it is much harder to point fingers, a line reminiscent of the ‘Fairview’ program.
Two nations, who could not be further from each other in terms of their modern political and ideological history are starting to enforce very similar tactics, but with both shadowing past political ideals to enforce these regimes. China, a conservative and foreshadowed to be an ex-communist nation, enlists tactics that fall in line with previous governments; the people will be surveyed, and they will know about it, for fear of reprimand, thus keeping the nation in check. The United States, on the other hand, is employing exactly the same strategies, but with such resounding secrecy that half of the time, the nation doesn’t even know that surveillance is taking place. Both countries are employing exactly the same tactic but only one nation really knows it’s happening. The question is, which approach is right, if either?
The answer, unfortunately, is never cut and dry. While the likes of the deep web and even mainstream internet sites that contain explicitly illegal content is on the rise, the reality is that policing is very necessary. The real question is, when does it go too far? When do the people charged with policing become the oppressors? The internet, as all tools, can be used in a variety of different ways, for so much good, but also to harbour the bad. It is the opinion of many that the time where we will see the internet ruled with an iron fist is approaching. Who knows, maybe it’s already here and the NSA just hasn’t told us yet.
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