Sunday, September 25, 2022
Home TECH The world is approaching a new cold war fought with authoritarian technology

The world is approaching a new cold war fought with authoritarian technology

Beyond the SCO, Venezuela’s autocratic regime in 2017 announced a smart ID card for its citizens that aggregated employment, voting, and medical information with the help of Chinese telecommunications company ZTE. And Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications corporation, has a global network of 700 locations with its smart city technology, according to the company’s 2021 annual report. This is more than in 2015, when the company had approximately 150 international contracts in cities.

Chinese Surveillance Platforms Used for Surveillance and Public Security

Democracies are also implicated in digital authoritarianism. The United States has a formidable surveillance system built on a foundation of Chinese technology; A recent study by industry research group Top10VPN showed more than 700,000 US camera networks operated by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua.

American companies too prop up much of the digital authoritarian industry and they are key players in complex supply chains, making isolation and accountability difficult. Intel, for example, servants of powers for Tiandy, a Chinese company known for developing “smart interrogation chairs” allegedly used in torture.

Hikvision and Dahua camera networks outside of China

beyond the code

Digital authoritarianism goes beyond software and hardware. More broadly, it is about how the state can use technology to increase its control over its citizens.

Internet blackouts caused by state actors, for example, have increased every year for the past decade. A state’s ability to shut down the internet is tied to the degree of ownership of the internet infrastructure, a hallmark of authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. And as the Internet becomes more essential to all aspects of life, the power of blackouts to destabilize and harm people increases.

Earlier this year, when anti-government protests rocked SCO member Kazakhstan, the state shut down the internet almost completely for five days. During this time, Russian troops descended on major cities to quell dissent. The blackout costs the country more than $400 million and cut off essential services.

Other tactics include models to use data fusion and artificial intelligence to act on surveillance data. During last year’s SCO summit, Chinese representatives organized a panel on the Strategic Algorithms of a Thousand Cities, which instructed the audience on how to develop a “national data brain” that integrates various forms of financial data and uses artificial intelligence to analyze and make sense of it. According to the SCO website, 50 countries are “conducting talks” with the Thousand Cities Strategic Algorithms initiative.

Related to this, the use of facial recognition technology is spreading globally, and investment in advanced visual computing technologies that help make sense of camera images has also grown, especially in Russia.


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