China has brought surveillance of its citizens to new levels, using face recognition technology. 

A woman jaywalked, thinking nothing of it. The police demanded her identity card, but she didn’t have it. They snapped her picture and promptly pulled up her identity and her personal history.

This incident was but a small indicator of China’s determination to monitor its people.

“Mao Yan’s Shenzhen is part of one of the great social experiments of mankind — the use of massive amounts of data, combined with facial recognition technology, shaming and artificial intelligence to control a population via marriage of the state and private companies. Already on the packed highways of Shanghai, honking has decreased. That’s because directional microphones coupled with high-definition cameras can identify and ticket — again, via WeChat — noisy drivers and display their names, photographs and identity card numbers on the city’s many LED boards. On some streets, if drivers stop their cars by the side of the road longer than seven minutes, high-definition cameras identify the driver and, again, issue him or her an instant ticket…

”But as Mao Yan’s story makes clear, this technology is bleeding into the rest of China, where 95 percent of the population is Han Chinese. And China’s authorities won’t be content with traffic stops. Their goal is behavioral modification on a massive scale. Chinese planners have announced their intention to tap the vast AI and surveillance infrastructure currently under construction to generate “social credit” scores for all of China’s 1.5 billion people. With a high score, traveling, securing a loan, buying a car and other benefits will be easy to come by. Run afoul of the authorities, and problems begin.
Some Chinese businessmen who are benefiting from this massive investment in data have argued that the Chinese are less concerned about privacy than people in the United States. Robin Li, the founder of Baidu, China’s version of Google, which routinely shares its data with the Chinese Communist Party, argued over the weekend that Chinese people don’t care that much about privacy. “The Chinese people are more open or less sensitive about the privacy issue,” said Li, speaking at the China Development Forum in Beijing. “If they are able to trade privacy for convenience, safety and efficiency, in a lot of cases, they are willing to do that.” Ironically, Li’s remarks were released by the Chinese magazine Caixin on the same day that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg issued an apology for releasing user data to a political consultancy.
In her article, Mao Yan didn’t seem to agree with Li’s optimistic interpretation of the campaign. “Maybe,” she wrote, “it’s intimidation to make everyone afraid.” I think she’s right. Hours after Mao Yan posted her story on China’s Internet, censors took it down.”

We should never normalize the invasion of privacy.

Thats why I left Facebook. So did Elon Musk.

The protection of privacy—some basic human dignity—should concern us all.