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Posted at 5:53 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

China plans to track cellphone users, sparking human rights concerns

By Cecilia Kang

China said it may begin tracking cellphone users in Beijing through location technology it hopes will help city authorities better manage traffic. But the announcement also sparked fresh concerns that the government may be using mobile technology to surveil its residents.

In an announcement, made through Beijing's Municipal People's Government Web site, the Chinese government said it would track 17 million cellphone users in Beijing through location technology to "publish real-time dynamic information to ease congestion and improve the efficiency of public travel."

Beijing is notorious for its traffic congestion. Last August, a 60-mile jam into the capital city lasted nine days. The Chinese government is also notorious for its firm grip on the flow of information in and out of the country. Authorities have tapped into e-mail accounts of foreign journalists and Democracy activists and censored certain Web sites in the nation.

"What happens when you start tracking cellphone users is that you maintain a constant history of what users are doing, their habits, who they associate with," said Joshua Gruenspecht, a cyber security fellow at the U.S.-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

"The government can then use that history against people and for human rights reasons, that can be very politically disturbing," he said.

In Beijing, 70 percent of residents have a cellphone run by China Mobile. In a statement, Li Guoguang, China's Science and Technology Commission Deputy Director of Social Development, said they could determine the location of users by the connection of a cellphone antenna to one of the multitude of base stations across the city. He said the country is still weighing the service and how to build a platform to collect and deliver information.

Gruenspecht said any government or cellphone company can track its users. By simply connecting to a cell tower or through other location-based services such as global positioning systems, a mobile user’s whereabouts can be pinpointed even to a city block.

But the announcement by the Chinese government is the first he has heard of a nation using location services to comprehensively track its users. And the announcement comes amid heightened awareness over the use of mobile devices and Internet communications sites such as Facebook and Twitter to organize and fuel civil protests against the governments of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

But those technologies have also served to harm activists and protestors, some civil rights groups say. Facebook's real name policy puts people at risk for retaliation by governments, some say.

In a statement, Nizar Zakka, the Secretary General of IJMA3, the Arab communications technology regulatory group, urged social media companies to develop protective measures for social media users:

"Social media had demonstrated its potential, on the streets of Tehran, Cairo and elsewhere, to serve as an agent for change and virtuous development," Zakka said, according to reports. "However, as its power becomes more apparent, the desire of governments to use this very tool of free expression to suppress dissent increases accordingly. These days, social media is also being used in order to monitor, track, and ultimately muzzle the very activists whose activities it most supports."

By Cecilia Kang  | March 3, 2011; 5:53 PM ET
 
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Comments

I am amazed the nicest words like 'human right" always come out the least qualified and baddest people. What did America do in last decade for human right, except slaughtering million Iraqi, unpunished, not to mention what thier forefather did to millions of Indian and blacks?

At least China has lifted 500 millions from poverty, the greates contribution to the whole mankind.

Posted by: eastman1 | March 3, 2011 9:35 PM | Report abuse

The so-called jasmine revolution in China is at best a copycatting version of online games. It is just like a person wants to be famous and a site would like to get some hits.

Posted by: dailymail111 | March 3, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

The things that Chinese government did are aiming at making the citizens' life be better and convenient, but not for violating human rights.

Posted by: maomao1 | March 4, 2011 1:39 AM | Report abuse

The things that Chinese government did are aiming at making the citizens' life be better and convenient, but not for violating human rights.

Posted by: maomao1 | March 4, 2011 1:40 AM | Report abuse

The things that Chinese government did are aiming at making the citizens' life be better and convenient, but not for violating human rights.

Posted by: maomao1 | March 4, 2011 1:47 AM | Report abuse

The things that Chinese government did are aiming at making the citizens' life be better and convenient, but not for violating human rights.

Posted by: maomao1 | March 4, 2011 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Forget the misguided rumors of a Jasmine Revolution sweeping China. When change comes, the world’s biggest country will move with its own power, to its own rhythms, and its own smell. Make no mistake, the Jiaozi Revolution is already underway! Watch: http://jiaozirevolution.com/

Posted by: maozewrong | March 4, 2011 4:50 AM | Report abuse

The way I see it is that there are two Chinas, one of them is the real China , with a 5000 year history, of kind and gentle Buddhist and Tao philosophies, including so many innovations in all forms of science and art, and then there is the second China, which is the brutal Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese Communist Party is the enemy of good people everywhere. All the Governments of the World are aware of this fact and of the many heinous crimes that the brutal Party has committed on their own people, lately on spiritual groups such as Christians and Falun Gong. The only reason that the so-called free world is dealing with this monster, the Party, is because of corporate greed. Thank you for your consideration.

Posted by: jefforsythe9 | March 4, 2011 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I am very cautious on China and anything it does, I am highly suspicious by their motives and actions, and there's a part of me that wants to go over there and talk about their atrocities just so I can see what they do for myself... but I know better. But I am not AS concerned about this. I'm not saying that China is innocent in everything and that they wouldn't abuse this technology. But this technology is/has been deployed in the U.S. for the exact same reasons. I suppose the major difference is that it isn't in the hands of the U.S. government.

Posted by: novahokie2004 | March 4, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

People seek to be empowered like plants seek the sun.True in Madison. True in Beijing. True in Cairo.

Posted by: steveandjanereed1 | March 4, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Yet another reason to not let ICANN fall prey to foreign and nationalistic countries.

Once individual countries can control their domain naming, no one is safe!

Posted by: edwin1 | March 4, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Issues like this will not become a problem until Wal Mart quits selling cheap stuff....human rights...Give me a break.

Posted by: scotta3 | March 4, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"China plans to track cellphone users, sparking human rights concerns,...."
_________________________________________

Really? human rights concerns? In China?
Whoa! Now that we know this we'll deal with it right away!

Posted by: realneil | March 4, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Though China undoubtedly is not a free and open society this technology is already being used here in the US for monitoring traffic conditions and is not necessarily malign.

"Companies offering the technology like AirSage and IntelliOne Technologies, both based in Atlanta, or ITIS Holdings, a British company, say they have neither the ability nor the interest to track individuals. Rather, they say the cellular carriers provide them with a stream of raw data that has no personal identification markers."
'Enlisting Cellphone Signals to Fight Road Gridlock'
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/11/business/11ftraffic.html

"Today GPS-equipped smart phones are progressively morphing into a ubiquitous traffic monitoring system, with the potential to provide traffic information in real time for the entire transportation network,"
http://washingtontechnology.com/Articles/2009/07/23/Cell-phones-to-aid-traffic-monitoring.aspx

Posted by: benb1 | March 4, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

In Indonesia, Pirates will clone your phone then block it fron receiving calls, they get your number and your account address and call your home while blocking your calls. They tell the family, at the home phone number, you are in the hospital with minutes to live from a car accident and they need a $3,000.00 ( RP 30,000,000)Tool to save your life. The family must wire it imeadiatly to the caller or you will die. The family tries to call your cell phone but it is intercepted by the pirates. Panic sets in and the family wires the money. Scammers all, but there is no way to trace the scammers calls. This realy happened to my wife's brother's family. The Children answered the phone and were told their daddy is dieing. Soon this scam will be in America with those throw-AWAY phones and Pirating scanners.

Posted by: Dijeau | March 4, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

America is the land of BS artists. These BS artists artistically BS about human rights while its government continues to send its soldiers to commit crimes against humanity around the world.

Posted by: Maersk | March 4, 2011 11:56 PM | Report abuse

It must be a scary and strange feeling to be that afraid of your own citizens that you need to monitor them on mass.

Posted by: tcmsols1 | March 5, 2011 4:16 AM | Report abuse

This blog comment section has evidently become a soap box for America-haters to vent their delusional, venomous viewpoints, with the only connection to the article that they mention "cellphone" in their responses.

Posted by: tonyr4096 | March 5, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I am amazed the nicest words like 'human right" always come out the least qualified and baddest people. What did America do in last decade for human right, except slaughtering million Iraqi, unpunished, not to mention what thier forefather did to millions of Indian and blacks?

At least China has lifted 500 millions from poverty, the greates contribution to the whole mankind.

Posted by: eastman1 | March 3, 2011 9:35 PM

======

That's rich coming from an apologist of a police state which holds a billion people under its control. Look who China's friends are - North Korea, Sudan, Iran, Zimbabwe. If a government is killing, torturing or otherwise abusing its own people it can be sure of being supported by China.

Posted by: robert17 | March 5, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

A human right to have and use a cellphone does not exist. A cellphone is LUXURY!

Posted by: uzs106 | March 5, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

A human right to have and use a cellphone does not exist. A cellphone is LUXURY!

Posted by: uzs106 | March 5, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

It is like submarine warfare where the enemy is unseen except through the technical instruments of the sonar, radio, oceanograghy and wit, only in this case tools are located in cyberspace insead of the sea, the tools are the internet, mobile communications technology, party ideology and wit,...

A war at sea. A war with no battles, no monuments... only casualties

- The Hunt for Red October

Posted by: bxurz | March 5, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

From Ying Zheng burying the scholars alive, right down to the present day, the control of China is about the control of information and culture. With China it has been imperialism and Big Brother from day one.

One country believes in a free press, the other doesn't. You can post your pot and kettle nonsense, nothing can rub out that difference. We can know our sins and resolve to do better. China cannot.

Posted by: fzdybel | March 5, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

To Kang: you must be very ignorant not to know that American telephone companies keep a full record of call records of each telephone, mobile or land. I hope you know that American is the most notorious human right violator in the world.

Posted by: thmak | March 6, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure Apple will assist them in any way they can with surveillance.

Posted by: Nymous | March 6, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

China is not promoting human rights anymore than the US foreign policy is gaining us friends and allies. To eastman1: the US has not slaughtered millions of innocent Iraqis, although civilian casualties do happen. Quit making it sound like WHITE AMERICANS are evil and the only bad people in the world! This whole bringing in references to slavery is silly. It wasn't just Americans, it was Africans who facilitated the slave trade with America. Nobody in their right mind would have trekked across that continent for a few people to drag back, they were brought to the coast for them. Also, please learn to type coherent sentences in English; I can't read your gibberish without rereading it several times to be sure of the point. Oh and China hasn't helped anyone, stop fooling yourself.

Posted by: vathinker1 | March 6, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I believe that all phone operations, cell or other, have not been private for a long time and not just in China. We should use them as public channels. Same goes with the internet.

Posted by: Uutisvahtidotcom | March 6, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I believe that all phone operations, cell or other, have not been private for a long time and not just in China. We should use them as public channels. Same goes with the internet.

Posted by: Uutisvahtidotcom | March 6, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

In China anyone can buy an anonymous cell phone, and add money to it. I have not found a way to get an anonymous cell phone in North America - here big brother is watching all the time.

\

Posted by: soini | March 6, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The problem with china is not that it is tracking cell phone use. we do that here and its done everywhere. its what china does with the cell phone use. it tracks people and if they are suspected of trying to promote freedom, these people are hunted down and they are killed like animals, as well as their friends and families. China is a nation of sick monsters who our american corporations fall over themselves to do business with and enrich. we are enriching a group of killers and we should be so ashamed. these killers are going to come for us eventually, and we should stop pretending that its not going to happen. we have stooped to the promise of cheap labor and high profits not wanting to know what is being done to give us those big profits. MURDER IS WHAT IS BEING DONE. And the people in america who pretend to not know what is being done, are complicit in murder. And they know it on some level, and support it through their religion and philosophy. You know who you are, supporters of murderers. No honest christian would ever move a company to china. only heathens and crimminals would do business there.

Posted by: Mitcheisenstein | March 6, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

@ novahokie2004: Check your facts again. The US government does not have the right to track people's movement without a warrent from a judge. To get a warrent the government must provide the judge with a justification for invading people's privacy. Obviously anyone who ignores the Chinese government's human rights record does not believe in civil rights or human rights..
@ eastman1: Check your facts: First, Bill Clinton did more to help the Chinese escape poverty than any Chinese leader when he helpied China join the WTO. Do you really think the Chinese who work in factoris accross China are "escaping poverty" by becoming slave laborers? Get a life!! Now, what is China doing since it was given this opportunity to participate in the global economy? China is manipulating it's currency in order to continue to be the factory for the world. Holding down the yuan is a BS way to sap jobs from other (more deserving) countries, undermine the free trade system that gives China prosperity, and create jobs in China in order to maintain the communist social order.
FREE TIBET. DOWN WITH COMMUNIST CHINA.

Posted by: NJwashere2011 | March 7, 2011 12:31 AM | Report abuse

@ benb1: Perhaps it isn't "necessarily malign". That's not the point. The point is that the Chinese government IS MALIGN. The Post didn't report that the government of China will not (or is unlikely to) use this technology to monitor people's movements. Why should we assume that this use of technology is probably acceptable? Have some skepticism, friend, before you're next on teh chopping block! FREE LYBIA!! GO REBELS GO!!! DOWN WITH HU!!! SEND HU AND GADDAFI TO THE SAME PRISON CAMP!!!

Posted by: NJwashere2011 | March 7, 2011 12:35 AM | Report abuse

In a country where even their communist founder Mao's writing is prohibited what would you expect? In Tianamin Square all trends from pro democracy to Mao Tse-tung thought participants were there country's real nature was exposed.
Where car hitting pedastarian puts the latter in trouble, where from starch filled phony baby milks kill infants and melamine fills milk in biggest corporations and like many other places earthquakes destroy newer buildings more than older ones, where Nobel Prize earner cannot gain his right nor, could his family, such regime has to go but how? How could that occur without ending up like Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into each other fighting pieces, that is only for Chinese people to figure out and history to find out.

Posted by: avalon19la | March 7, 2011 1:46 AM | Report abuse

This is yet another reminder of the non-freedom of speech and opinion in China.

Derek Jansen
http://www.CrazyVegas.com

Posted by: derekjay | March 7, 2011 4:14 AM | Report abuse

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