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The world is transferring nearer to a brand new chilly struggle fought with authoritarian tech

Past the SCO, Venezuela’s autocratic regime introduced in 2017 a sensible identification card for its residents that aggregated employment, voting, and medical info with the assistance of the Chinese language telecom firm ZTE. And Huawei, one other Chinese language telecom company, boasts a world community of 700 localities with its sensible metropolis expertise, in accordance with the corporate’s 2021 annual report. That is up from 2015, when the corporate had about 150 worldwide contracts in cities.

Chinese language surveillance platforms used for policing and public safety

Democracies are implicated in digital authoritarianism, too. The US has a formidable surveillance system constructed on a basis of Chinese language tech; a current examine by the trade analysis group Top10VPN confirmed over 700,000 US digicam networks run by the Chinese language firms Hikvision and Dahua. 

US firms additionally prop up a lot of the digital authoritarianism trade and are key gamers in complicated provide chains, which makes isolation and accountability tough. Intel, for instance, powers servers for Tiandy, a Chinese language firm recognized for growing “sensible interrogation chairs” reportedly utilized in torture. 

Networks of Hikvision and Dahua cameras exterior China

Past the code 

Digital authoritarianism goes past software program and {hardware}. Extra broadly, it’s about how the state can use expertise to extend its management over its residents. 

Web blackouts brought on by state actors, for example, have been rising yearly for the previous decade. The flexibility of a state to close off the web is tied to the extent of its possession over web infrastructure, a trademark of authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. And because the web turns into extra important to all components of life, the ability of blackouts to destabilize and hurt folks will increase. 

Early this yr, as anti-government protests rocked Kazakhstan, an SCO member, the state shut down the web virtually solely for 5 days. Throughout this time, Russian troops descended on main cities to quell the dissent. The blackout value the nation greater than $400 million and minimize off important providers. 

Different ways embody fashions for utilizing knowledge fusion and synthetic intelligence to behave on surveillance knowledge. Throughout final yr’s SCO summit, Chinese language representatives hosted a panel on the Thousand Cities Strategic Algorithms, which instructed the viewers on find out how to develop a “nationwide knowledge mind” that integrates varied types of monetary knowledge and makes use of synthetic intelligence to research and make sense of it. In accordance with the SCO web site, 50 international locations are “conducting talks” with the Thousand Cities Strategic Algorithms initiative. 

Relatedly, using facial recognition expertise is spreading globally, and funding in superior visible computing applied sciences that assist make sense of digicam footage has additionally grown, notably in Russia. 



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