It’s another Olympic year – that quadrennial spectacular of athletic prowess, international goodwill… and government spying on all who attend.
The government, this time around is the authoritarian regime of China. As in all host countries, the Chinese leaders are eager to put their best foot forward by building world-class sports facilities, removing poor peoples and beggars from sight, and generally putting polish on everything.
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But – pssssst – look around. Isn’t that a surveillance camera up there, over there, and back behind you, too? Indeed, the host city, Beijing, will have almost as many cameras as visitors – and there has been a gold rush of U.S. corporations vying to get the multimillion-dollar contracts to set up the high-tech surveillance state before the summer games.
Honeywell is working with state police to install elaborate computer monitoring systems to analyze feeds from cameras throughout one of the main Olympic areas. GE has sold its powerful VisioWave system that allows authorities to control thousands of video cameras simultaneously, automatically altering them to “suspicious” behavior. IBM has provided a computer system to analyze and catalogue people’s movements.
Officials claim that this surge in techno-spying is necessary to protect visitors from terrorists. But the system’s targets seem more designed to protect the regime from democracy activists and dissidents – cameras are to be installed, for example, in internet cafes, places of religious worship, and even in the Olympics media center. And when the games and visitors leave, the see-all spying apparatus will remain in place.
In the interest of quick profits, Honeywell, IBM, GE, and the rest are putting an American imprimatur on Chinese authoritarianism, providing the regime with the most advanced tools of repression. Not exactly the Olympic spirit, is it?
“China Finds American Allies for Security,” www.nytimes.com, December 28, 2007