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China's People Monitoring Software Being Deployed In Darwin

Lifehacker Australia logo Lifehacker Australia 29/04/2019 Anthony Caruana
Image: iStock Image: iStock

The Chinese government's desire to ensure social control is well known with its "social credit' monitoring system the stuff of nightmares for those of us accustomed to personal freedom. But part of the software used by the Chinese government is now being exported and found a customer in the City of Darwin.

The City of Darwin has been looking at adopting smart city technology and has decided to implement facial recognition software and other monitoring solutions in order to detect anomalous behaviour or if a known criminal or someone banned from entering a specific area.

The software will then alert authorities who can intercede when someone traverses what the council is calling a "virtual fence".

It all sounds like a good idea except that it will be scanning everyone's face. And that's a rich treasure trove of data that could be used in all sorts of ways.

Initially reported by The NT News, the council’s Innovation, Growth and Development Services general manager Josh Sattler said the system will use cameras and other sensors to monitor who is moving around and what they are using their smartphones for.

“(It will tell us) where people are using Wi-Fi, what they’re using Wi-Fi for, are they watching YouTube etc, all these bits of information we can share with businesses … we can let businesses know ‘hey, 80 per cent of people actually use Instagram within this area of the city, between these hours’.

Frankly, I find this a scary step further down the road of a surveillance state. With the city's desire to use data from WiFi networks commercially and, potentially, other purposes, it reinforces my view that there is no safe public WiFi if you value privacy.

If you must use public WiFi, only ever do so using VPN software - the free ProtonVPN is highly regarded as are a number of other solutions.

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