China’s VPN Developers Face Crackdown

China recently launched a crackdown on the use of software which allows users to get around its heavy internet censorship. Now as the BBC reports, developers are facing growing pressure. From the report: The three plain-clothes policemen tracked him down using a web address. They came to his house and demanded to see his computer. They told him to take down the app he was selling on Apple’s App Store, and filmed it as it was happening. His crime was to develop and sell a piece of software that allows people to get round the tough restrictions that limit access to the internet in China. A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It’s essential in China if you want to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked on the mainland. “They insisted they needed to see my computer,” the software developer, who didn’t want us to use his name, told us during a phone interview. “I said this is my private stuff. How can you search as you please?” No warrant was produced and when he asked them what law he had violated they didn’t say. Initially he refused to co-operate but, fearing detention, he relented. Then they told him what they wanted: “If you take the app off the shelf from Apple’s App Store then this will be all over.” ‘Sorry, I can’t help you with that’. Up until a few months ago his was a legal business. Then the government changed the regulations. VPN sellers need a licence now.

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China’s All-Seeing Surveillance State Is Reading Its Citizens’ Faces

China’s government is using facial-recognition technology to help promote good behavior and catch lawbreakers, reports the WSJ. From the article: Facial-recognition technology, once a specter of dystopian science fiction, is becoming a feature of daily life in China, where authorities are using it on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering (alternative source). Their goal: to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers. Ms. Gan, 31 years old, had been caught on camera crossing illegally here once before, allowing the system to match her two images. Text displayed on the crosswalk screens identified her as a repeat offender. “I won’t ever run a red light again,” she said. China is rushing to deploy new technologies to monitor its people in ways that would spook many in the U.S. and the West. Unfettered by privacy concerns or public debate, Beijing’s authoritarian leaders are installing iris scanners at security checkpoints in troubled regions and using sophisticated software to monitor ramblings on social media. By 2020, the government hopes to implement a national “social credit” system that would assign every citizen a rating based on how they behave at work, in public venues and in their financial dealings.

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NASA and China’s Yutu Rover Are Still Making Discoveries On the Moon

MarkWhittington writes: The last time men walked on the moon was during the flight of Apollo 17, 43 Decembers ago. According to a story in Forbes, lunar soil and rock samples returned by the last moonwalkers are still yielding new insights into the history and nature of Earth’s nearest neighbor. In the meantime, the latest explorer to go to the moon, a Chinese robotic rover named Yutu has made some discoveries of its own.

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China’s Island-Building In Pictures

An anonymous reader writes: The South China Sea is just small enough to have high strategic value for military operations and just large enough to make territorial claims difficult. For over a year now, the world has been aware that China is using its vast resources to try and change that. Instead of fighting for claims on existing islands or arguing about how far their sovereignty should extend, they simply decided to build new islands. “The islands are too small to support large military units but will enable sustained Chinese air and sea patrols of the area. The United States has reported spotting Chinese mobile artillery vehicles in the region, and the islands could allow China to exercise more control over fishing in the region.” The NY Times has a fascinating piece showing clear satellite imagery of the new islands, illustrating how a fleet a dredgers have dumped enormous amounts of sand on top of existing reefs. “Several reefs have been destroyed outright to serve as a foundation for new islands, and the process also causes extensive damage to the surrounding marine ecosystem.” We can also see clear evidence of airstrips, cement plants, and other structures as the islands become capable of supporting them.

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