UPDATE — 03/09/19 | New revelations show Melbourne and Perth have activated facial recognition CCTV capabilities without notifying the public.
UPDATE — 29/08/19 | The mainstream media are FINALLY reporting Australia’s shift towards a Chinese-style system.
UPDATE — 14/07/19 | The NSW government have also announced facial recognition systems are set for public transport networks.
UPDATE — 12/05/19 | City of Perth have announced the installation of facial recognition cameras across the CBD. Click here for more.
UPDATE — 30/04/19 | Established press outlets are now beginning to also express concerns about Chinese-inspired technology in Darwin.
China has developed what some are describing as a chilling digital dictatorship, with a new national system that monitors all citizens on a 24/7 basis and ranks them on their behaviour now fully operational.
Underpinning the new system is the latest advancements in facial recognition and biometric technology, a model that some argue mirrors programs currently being introduced in Australia.
Could Australia be incrementally setting up a blueprint for a similar system here in the future? In the following subscription piece, we explore the latest developments in digital surveillance from both countries.
Published on 26 February 2019 for Free Subscribers and made available to the public on 1 May 2019.
CHINA’S ‘SOCIAL CREDIT SYSTEM’
The Chinese Social Credit System (SCS) is a national ‘reputation system’ being developed by the Chinese government, intended to standardise the assessment of citizen and business ‘social reputation’ through ‘credit’.
In 2014, China’s State Council issued an outline for the social credit system, translated to read “State Council Notice concerning Issuance of the Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014–2020)”.
Under the plan, a person’s ‘social score’ will be continuously analysed and can move up and down depending on their behaviour in society.
Individuals are rated across four areas: “honesty in government affairs”, “commercial integrity”, “societal integrity”, and “judicial credibility”.
Active pilot programs have already seen millions of people either begin reap its benefits or suffer its consequences – depending on which end of the scale they sit – with companies already developing IT systems and technology to monitor “antisocial behaviour”.
Underpinning the agenda, points will be lost and gained based on readings from a sophisticated network of 200 million surveillance cameras — a figure set to triple in 18 months.
Within years, an official Party outline claims, it will “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.
The program, since the publishing of the government press release, has seen incremental rollouts across the country, primarily beginning to align in areas such as reform of legislation and business corporate policies.
The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of China has started a blacklist of debtors with roughly thirty two thousand names, and the People’s Bank of China has licensed eight companies to trial of social credit systems.
The program has been enabled by rapid advances in facial recognition, body scanning and biometric geo-tracking.
Under this new social experiment, those deemed to be “top citizens” are rewarded bonus points, with the benefits including waived deposits on hotels and rental cars, VIP treatment at airports and more.
On the other side of the coin, jaywalking, late payments on bills or taxes, buying too much alcohol or speaking out against the government, each cost citizens points, according to Business Insider.
In November, a detailed plan was produced for further implementation of the program for 2018-2020. The plans included blacklisting people from public transport and publicly disclosing individuals’ and businesses’ untrustworthiness rating.
In January 2019, the Beijing government officially announced that it will start to test “Personal Credit Score”.
Reuters reported that restrictions on citizens and businesses with low Social Credit ratings would come into effect on May 1st, while several million flight and high-speed train trips have been denied to people who have been blacklisted.
Currently, over 13.7 million people are classified as ‘untrustworthy’ under the system, resulting in millions of plane and train tickets being suspended and activities in society restricted.
In Australia, vast changes in surveillance were implemented after the events of September 11th, which saw many countries pass legislation that gives police and intelligence services greater powers and resources as a result.
Sweeping legislative changes and broad anti-terror laws have effectively sanctioned powerful surveillance methods, including the development of vast biometric capabilities for government and the private sector.
Increasingly, we are seeing new programs and technologies be developed as a means of ‘security’ or to ‘prevent terrorism’, such as national databases and increased sharing between domestic and international intelligence communities – particularly the Five Eyes Alliance.
Biometric systems were introduced in Australia at the turn of the century, and specific focus was given to the agenda following the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003.
Australia is already beginning to develop and implement biometric identification systems all across the country, particularly in schooling, workplaces, airports and public transport.
A multitude of systems are being developed across a variety of industries and avenues of Australian society to monitor, analyse, judge and identify individuals for ‘safety and security’ reasons.
This includes all states and territories handing over driver’s licenses and passport photos for a national identification uses, allowing for real-time facial recognition when matched to state CCTV footage.
These plans were recently unveiled with details surrounding highly controversial changes to ‘anti-terrorism’ measures, including the introduction of a new national facial recognition database.
This new national system parallels the central underlying mechanism operating China’s SCS — that being facial recognition capabilities to monitor individuals in real time and rank them according to their behaviours.
Australia’s leading privacy and civil liberties organisations have called the comprehensive database “incompatible with a free and open society”.
Last week, Perth Airport became Australia’s second international airport to begin installing new facial recognition smart gates, following previous pilot trials introduced at Canberra Airport.
The Australian government has stated their intended goal is to automate 90% of air traveller processing by 2020, and is on track to replace passports with facial recognition capabilities after signing new contracts.
Furthermore, facial recognition technology was deployed across the Gold Coast public transport network early last year, including trains, trams and buses at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
This technology will remain in place indefinitely following the event.
Public transport commuters in Queensland will soon be able to use their faces as a ticket to board trains and buses in the near future, after it was announced that trials will commence to replace the current ‘Go Card’ digital network with facial recognition technology.
Remember, millions of people in China have been banned from travelling via trains, buses and from airports for “unsociable behaviour”.
Concerns have already been raised by privacy groups and technology experts on the details of smart infrastructure plans, which are set to be trialled in locations such as Darwin, Perth, Newcastle and Melbourne.
In China, smart tech is tackling everything from resource management, environmental issues and traffic congestion, to welfare systems and the ‘lack of social trust’ that led to the development of this ranking system.
The agenda is being coupled with rapid shifts towards a cashless society and digital licenses and identity in Australia, as well as sister programs such as the monitoring via the controversial My Health Record.
This is only scratching the surface. We have covered this category extensively since 2012 on the website:
Does this all sound strikingly familiar to you? What are we seeing unfold?
It seems likely that these announcements in Australia will soon be used as means to monitor local areas and citizen behaviours, with an underlying CCTV facial recognition system to enforce the new agenda.
‘Smart city’ networks with highly sophisticated biometric capabilities will connect the grid, where a national facial recognition database will function as a surveillance mechanism behind the CCTV lenses.
From this, anything is possible, and there will be nowhere to escape the eyes of Big Brother on every corner, train, airport and community.
All moves bare striking resemblance to the digital dystopia being introduced across China to control the behaviour of millions of citizens.
Indeed, China’s ‘Social Credit System’ will reach Australia one day soon.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
This information has been taken from our latest membership piece, Australia: The Biometric Dystopia Cometh, and has been made available for Free Subscribers of our website.
In this membership piece, we take a look at the rise of a new age technological dystopia, including the history and development of biometrics and biometric technology, monitoring characteristics, the modern digital era in Australia and more on China’s ‘Social Credit System’.
Subscriber Content is a new concept we are introducing that consists of feature pieces containing specific focuses or individual topics from Member Content, which looks to explore deeper questions relating to the public themes we publish about.
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