Saturday, March 05, 2011

China's cell phone tracking system seen as "Jasmine Revolution" paranoia


China's capital city will introduce in June a system to get information for improved traffic and population monitoring control coming from the mobile phones of its 17 million users.
The new system can track the geographic location of mobile phone subscribers that includes their movement around Beijing as well as the time they left a place, where they are headed to and mode of transportation, the AFP said.
The high-tech plan received criticisms as invasion of privacy and a suspicious reaction to a possible "Jasmine Revolution."
A professor at Beijing University argued that the necessity to better the traffic conditions cannot warrant the use of a system to know the position of its citizens.
"We are talking about two completely different concepts. Mobile phone positioning is a matter of personal privacy. If you want to know about the flow of traffic, you should install filming equipment at junctions," Prof. Chen Derong told The Times.
He further said that the "system made sense only if it was intended to allow police to work out an individual's position for security reasons."
A few weeks ago, an aborted Egyptian-style protest was seen in several cities where many people were stopped by the police.
The Chinese government since then had made efforts to stop large number of people forming assemblies in public areas, immediately diffusing such crowd with the police whistling at people to walk fast, and bus cleaners spraying water on the streets.
Online searches for the Chinese equivalent name of "Egypt" and US envoy Jon Huntsman were made unavailable a few weeks ago.
Beijing's tracking system is not new. Japan announced in September that telecom NTT Docomo and the University of Tokyo embarked on a research that would take place between November 2010 and March 2011 in which mobile spatial data will be used to determine locations and user characteristics but individual users are never identified.
Details of this story here.
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