For Olympics, the Chinese Use Eyes in the Sky

Combine technological advancement, a worldwide stage and fears of terrorism, and what do you get? An Orwellian 2008 Summer Olympic Games. From tickets containing RFID chips aimed at preventing fraud and ticket scalping to surveillance cameras set up on the streets monitoring people with state-of the art software, the games beginning August 8 in Beijing bring the fears of 1984 to life. In China, Big Brother is watching you.

IBM announced in December that its Smart Surveillance System, or S3, would be active in Beijing in time for the Olympic Games. The software can analyze information from IP-based cameras as well as analog cameras to detect suspicious patterns of activity and issue alerts. The system is also destined for use in Chicago and Manhattan.

Perhaps more worrisome are rumors of biometric surveillance, including face recognition software, that the Chinese government is deploying to identify dissidents and “terrorists” ahead of the games. Such biometric software will likely affect Chinese citizens, but even foreigners can expect their moves to be tracked.

Last week, a U.S. Senator pointed out that the Chinese planned to monitor hotel guests’ Internet access. While U.S visitors might be worried about their prurient Internet activities, a former deputy assistant secretary of commerce is advising U.S. business travelers to leave their laptops at home to prevent Chinese authorities from spying on information stored on the computer. Since, according to Google and our ISPs, we’re not entitled to privacy anymore, the Summer Games are likely just the beginning.

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