Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cisco Helping China Monitor Citizens?

CiscoIn recent security camera news Cisco, along with a host of other western companies, is working with the Chinese government to install an outrageous 500,000 surveillance cameras in Chongqing, a very rapidly growing commercial and industrial metropolis.

In a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, it was cited that Cisco will supply the networking equipment required for the immense security camera system. The Chongqing government declined comment to the Wall Street Journal as did China's Ministry of Public Security and State Council Information Office.

There has yet to be a lot of information published in the West about the security camera system which has been given the title "Peaceful Chongqing". However, a notice on one of the city's news sites, Chongqing Currents, reports that a Peaceful Chongqing "mobilization and deployment meeting" was held back in March. The goal of this project is to make Chongqing "a city with good security, harmonious peace and safety for investment, and to provide stable society for promotion of the harmonious urban and rural development."

What is interesting is that Google's link to the original reference to Peaceful Chongqing in the Chongqing Currents just turns up a Chinese-language 404-error page. It is currently against the law to provide the Chinese government with crime-control products thanks to legislation passed after the uprising that was known as Tiananmen Square was crushed by Chinese troops. "The United States-China Act of 1991" was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, but was later vetoed by then-President George H. W. Bush.

It is difficult to determine what the law that was passed by Bush covers and what it doesn't. Fingerprinting equipment, for one, falls under the law where networking equipment for a security camera system is something a little different. Cisco flat out denies that it has stepped over the line in the Middle Kingdom. According to Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler, "Cisco does not supply equipment to China that is customized in any way to facilitate ... surveillance of users. Cisco supports Freedom of Expression, an Open Internet and Human Rights."

Chandler's stand isn't entirely out of line, though the word "customized" is a little flimsy. However, an extremely repressive government that has a long and dark history and current practice of suppressing dissent and monitoring the behavior of its citizens could easily turn something as harmless as a Cat6 patch panel into an instrument of the government's watchful eye and iron fist.

Peaceful Chongqing is set to go live over the course of the next two to three years.

Source: The Register - Cisco drives epic Chinese surveillance network, says report

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