In 2002, the US government started developing a complex tracking system called "Total Information Awareness", later renamed "Terrorism Information Awareness" to make it less threatening to civil liberties. It was intended to track people and give law enforcement agencies easy access to personal data, using a mix of biometrics, data-mining tools and other technologies, and very few privacy protections.
Two years later, funding for the office running TIA was stopped, but components of the project are still being developed today. And now it seems that China has taken that blueprint and translated it, with the help of China Public Security Tech, a Florida-based company which has raised millions from two Texan investment funds. Story from the New York Times:
At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets in Shenzhen in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity.
Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.
Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card. (...)
The Chinese government has ordered all large cities to apply technology to police work and to issue high-tech residency cards to 150 million people who have moved to a city (...) “If they do not get the permanent card, they cannot live here, they cannot get government benefits, and that is a way for the government to control the population in the future". (...)
“We have a very good relationship with U.S. companies like IBM, Cisco, HP, Dell,” said Robin Huang, the chief operating officer of China Public Security. “All of these U.S. companies work with us to build our system together.”
These and other companies have been providing other tracking and censoring technology to the Chinese government.