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China violates citizens’ privacy: Rights group

A rights group on Monday asked the Chinese government to stop building big data policing platforms to store personal information of its population, calling it a violation of privacy rights.

The Human Rights Watch’s statement said the “Police Cloud” was designed to track and predict the activities of activists, dissidents and ethnic minorities, and does not comply with international privacy standards, reports Efe news.

“It is frightening that Chinese authorities are collecting and centralizing ever more information about hundreds of millions of ordinary people, identifying persons who deviate from what they determine to be ‘normal thought,’ and then surveilling them,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

The Chinese government, according to the HRW, has stored citizens’ information for years, and is now exploring new technologies to gather personal information more efficiently, and to share it across departments at both the national and local levels.

Various applications used to analyse texts, videos and security camera images in real time or near real time are aimed at suppressing crimes, however, the HRW said these methods also allow police to arbitrarily obtain information about ordinary people.

International privacy standards require the collection, retention, and use of the personal data of individuals for policing purposes be allowed only if there was a genuine threat to a public interest; the laws in China did not meet these requirements, said the HRW.

“Preventing crime is a legitimate state interest, but predictive tools often point to the same old patterns, making it likely for policing to replicate old mistakes or biases such as targeting of people of lower socio-economic status.

“This throws into doubt whether the use of these predictive tools adds much new, and whether they are either a necessary or proportionate intrusion on the rights of individuals,” the HRW added.


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