China is taking yet another step in monitoring its citizens after the population of the autonomous region of Xinjiang were told to install a surveillance app on their phones.
We all know that privacy is changing. How we see privacy nowadays is not how our children will see it in twenty years. It seems, however, that the world’s governments are doing their best to make the state of surveillance seem like it’s absolutely normal and shouldn’t be questioned.
China’s Xinjiang authorities sent out a notice to citizens to install the Jinwang app or face ten-day detainments.
The app can monitor files on your phone in order to automatically detect any suspicious activity, like terrorist plans, or illegal religious videos. It even spots your pirated images, e-books and electronic documents and if it finds anything that shouldn’t be there, it will inform the user to delete them. What’s worse is that it also grabs the records from Weibo and WeChat, which are the local alternatives to Twitter and WhatsApp.
Basically, the government will know everything these individuals are doing. The Xinjiang region is a multi-ethnic region that has a mostly Muslim population. In recent years it has faced separatist issues, as well as terrorist attacks, which may explain the drastic measure taken by the local authorities.
A blow to human rights
Regardless of the reasons, such measures defy the human right to privacy, instituting a surveillance state in the region. Privacy is a fundamental human right, as recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international and regional treaties.
Of course, China isn’t the only place in the world where the government will completely disregard people’s privacy.
It’s been years since Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA files shed light on something that many people suspected, but had no proof was happening – that the US government is spying on its citizens, as well as foreign nationals, without even having a specific reason to do so. It is clear at this point that this is not just a strange utopian idea where governments want to spy on your every move without you even being a suspect, and it’s also clear that the United States is far from being the only culprit here.
The NSA situation has sparked an international debate on the subject and its programs have received heavy critiques from across the world.
It all boils down to the same idea, however – how much privacy are you willing to give up to your government? The intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities have been saying for years that they want more access to people’s online conversations in order to better fight against terrorism and other threats. Services offering encryption have been slammed left and right, while politicians have expressed that even using encryption should make someone a suspect, because they obviously must have something to hide. This kind of faulty thinking is what drives the surveillance state and the drive to allow governments to get some sort of encryption backdoor.
On the other hand, there’s absolutely no guarantee that the government can keep your data safe, even if you were to completely trust it to hold it.