If not implemented properly, this would become more like an iCloud leak!

How would you feel knowing that every time you took your car out, the government knew where you’re headed to? Would it feel like an invasion of privacy? Well, the Chinese government thinks otherwise. The government is developing a program that will make it possible to track citizens’ cars using Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips. The main motive behind this is to study and improve the traffic congestion on roads, which in turn will help reduce pollution. We hope it’s limited to just that!

Certain Measures Need To Be Taken

According to the Wall Street Journal, this program will be voluntary at first, but mandatory for new vehicles starting in 2019. The program is being put in place by China’s Ministry of Public Security, and the ministry’s Traffic Management Research Institute. RFID chips will be installed on the windshields of new cars, and the receiving devices on the side of the roads will help to study the traffic congestion. This will enable the government to work around it, and in turn help reduce air pollution - which is a major concern for China’s president, XI Jinping.

On one hand, the government says that, unlike the GPS, this system wouldn’t be able to track the location of a car at any given point. On the other hand, they say this system will help reduce the risk of vehicular terrorist attacks. So, apart from storing the license plate number and color of the car, we’re not sure how much information they plan to collect.

The Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, James Andrew Lewis, thinks that the RFID system will become another one of these tools that the government uses to monitor citizens. “The Chinese government has gone all out to create a real surveillance state. [There’s] social credit, and facial recognition, and internet and telecom monitoring,” he tells The Verge. “It’s part of this larger effort to create total information awareness in China for the government.”

Not The First Of Its Kind

The Chinese Government already recognizes and tracks license plates with security cameras in some regions. In countries like India, Dubai, and South Africa, RFID chips are used for paying tolls, parking, etc,. So, the use of RFID chips is not something uncommon; however it’s never been implemented in this fashion.

On a different note, China has been pretty strict with policies that concern the citizens in other scenarios as well. Facial recognition is common over there, whether it’s being done by smart glasses or mounted cameras. The government has been rolling out a ’social credit’ system, where citizens are rated by their finances, criminal behavior, and other factors. This is “just another step for this kind of overarching control. [Any] positive benefits are outweighed by the intrusiveness of the whole thing” says Lewis.

Our Take

China sells tens of millions of cars every year, and this is a really good initiative by the government; only if they manage to do this without intruding any individual’s privacy. Given their history where they’ve had conflicts with the citizens over such systems, it is a little hard to believe that the data collected will only be used to "improve the congestion." The Chinese government has been a penchant for surveillance and monitoring the citizens. Hence, there are security concerns. Nevertheless, if they successfully implement this, other countries could follow suit as well, as this is a global problem that every country will face, sooner or later.

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