Coronavirus is all the buzz these days. While people in the west don’t seem too concerned about the matter, for Chinese citizens, it is a serious epidemic that has affected the lives of millions. This article discusses how Chinese citizens are facing privacy and censorship issues all in the name of fighting the Coronavirus.
The situation on the ground doesn’t seem to be normalizing anytime soon. To make matters worse, China is heavily regulating all social media platforms and foreign news from being accessed in the country. In light of the recent mysterious death of the doctor who broke the news of the Corona epidemic, the citizens of China are calling for greater freedom of speech and access to foreign media.
The general public is extremely angry over the cover-ups by the government and have forced themselves to view uncensored foreign news to get a second opinion on the exact severity of the situation.
The country has gone into a complete lockdown as millions are forced to stay in their homes. As much as it sounds repressive, for foreigners, the move by the Chinese government might sound right in the wake of the Coronavirus. However, the controlled flow of information to the outside world makes China completely disconnected from the rest of the world. Due to the lack of information being shared online, it’s hard to determine what devastating has the Coronavirus has caused. For instance, people who I have talked to in China are unaware of the recent cases of Coronavirus that have affected around 26 countries.
An alarming situation indeed!
The Chinese government is heavily investing in tech companies to deploy facial recognition systems with AI temperature measurement technology. China has already started using thermal cameras in subways to measure the temperature of travelers and identify suspected Coronavirus victims from crowds of thousands.
Baidu, the search engine giant in China has already developed a facial scanning program to identify people that are not wearing protective masks. Now since privacy seems to be a distant dream in China as of now, locals are using VPNs more than ever to hide their identity and access restricted contents.
However, the government is constantly making it extremely difficult for its citizens to even use VPN services. The state is further reinforcing its restrictions on the use of VPNs that can bypass the great firewall and impose greater online surveillance on its people.
As more and more information is restricted by the government, more and more VPN services rapidly being blocked on a daily basis making it extremely difficult for people to access the most popular sites such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook. The censorship on foreign media has totally cut off China from the rest of the world. And the worst part is, until the situation normalizes, the crackdown on VPN services will continue by the government.
Since the surveillance in China is at an all-time high on its own citizens, which has also to do a lot with the state’s obsession to take full control, it begs the question, are all the measures being taken to suppress and monitor the Chinese people really just to tackle the virus, or there’s more to it?
More importantly, what will the western world do if god forbids the Coronavirus spreads to countries like the US or the UK? Will these superpowers follow the Chinese example? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Sebastian Riley is an independent cybersecurity consultant working to fight online censorship. Sebastian is also a passionate writer and speaker who enjoys spending his time educating people about emerging cybersecurity threats.