There was a lot of excitement when “China Amassed a Database’ was reported widely on September 15th and 16th. Dave Bromwich had this letter to the editor published in HB Today, in response to a report:
‘China Amassing Global Database’
I refer to the back page of Hawkes Bay Today, September 15.
Gosh, how scary. But the article left me with many questions. Is this different to other countries amassing data on global citizens as well as in their own countries? Does New Zealand’s very own GCSB collect data on international people of interest? Do the CIA and GCSB have any connections to police or military in their respective countries? Does the GCSB report to the government of New Zealand?
Much of the data is reported as having been collected through social media like Facebook. We do know that personal information of subscribers to Facebook is collected and sold to anyone interested. To some this is just a fact of life, to others it is an intrusion on privacy.
I guess the key to this article is that it appears to be separating the data collecting activities as being unique to China, as distinct from ‘countries like us’. The activity of Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 US elections and then the Brexit campaign using social media are but two proven examples of insidious use of social media and intrusion into democratic processes and privacy that we know to have happened in the west. Does this make western countries’ governance systems ‘authoritarian’ too, or is that simply hypocrisy?