Privacy in the China

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In China, privacy means the information that is unrelated to any public benefit or any group interest; it’s the concealed personal information that an individual or a group feels unwilling or inconvenient to share with others. Privacy protection is a natural human right of each individual. [1]

In March 2001, the Chinese Supreme People's Court has announced the privacy protection law in the judicial interpretation. However, this privacy protection law didn't explain the conceptional difference between privacy and privacy law. It only emphasized "disobeying the public common interest, public morality, or invading others' privacy" but didn't explain whether the victim share receives protection when there's a conflict between the victim's privacy and the public common interest. [2]

Challenges in privacy protection

The development of informational technologies and the internet has brought new concerns about privacy protection. According to a media survey in China, in recent years, 55.8% of participants considered the protection their privacy had become harder than previous, 29.3% of them think their private information is revealed to the public "casually". [3]

As technology advanced, many means of privacy protection has emerged. For example, emails can now be encrypted via PGP and be anonymously sent through networks like I2P. Tor can also be used to prevent internet service providers from knowing who their clients are communicating with. Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an extension of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). [4]

It's used for more secure encrypted communication over a computer network, and it's widely used on the internet since recent years. Currently, most websites in China have not adopted HTTPS. [5]

The Great Firewall

The Great Firewall

When the internet first came to China in 1994, it was not strictly regulated. This was also the result of China's "Open Door Policy", which hoped to introduce more Western knowledge to reform the Chinese economy. However, as the popularity of internets grew, the former leader of China, Deng Xiaoping had concerns about the security of the country. In 2000, the Golden Shield Project was implemented, which is the precursor to the "Great Firewall". In 2018, the Chinese government employs over 50,000 people to enforce its censorship, including blocking websites, searching for disapproved information, and blocking personal accounts. [6]

In recent years, the government institutions in China have started to apply more advanced informational technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to more efficiently carry out its censorship and better regulate social behaviors.

In July 2017, the Chinese state council released the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan (NGAIDP). The plan covered strategies to become the leading AI power in both research and deployment by 2030. It advocates the incorporation of AI in all aspects of people's daily life, such as medicine, transportation, environmental protection, and education.[7]

Traffic Camera

Camera system

Computer vision is the technology that deals with how computers can understand images and videos from high-level. Furthermore, it means computers can substitute human to find and track the matched target in images or videos. [8]

A driver who was using his cellphone while driving, captured by the traffic camera

In China, computer vision has been applied in the traffic camera system, to ease the pressure of traffic regulation. This new type of camera system, also known as the surveillance system. can not only recognize people on the street (mainly used for capturing criminals) but also tell whether the driver is using a cellphone or not wearing a seatbelt, etc. According to Qiu Rui, a policeman in Chongqing, was on duty in the summer of 2019. He received an alert from the surveillance system that there was a high probability caught on camera was a suspect in a 2002 murder case. [9]

Undeniably, this new type of camera system is helping the police better maintaining the social order, better regulating the traffic, and fewer people break the traffic rules. However, the widespread cameras system also raises concerns about the violation of people's privacy. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both collection and use of biometric data should be limited to people found to be involved in wrongdoing, and not broad populations who have no specific link to crime. Individuals should have the right to know what biometric data the government holds on them, but the Chinese automated surveillance camera system has violated those standards.[10]

Surveillance System in School

Chinese School Surveillance System that Scans Faces of Students

In 2018, high schools in China have started to apply computer vision technology in their camera system, for security reasons and to better regulate the students' behavior. Those cameras are deployed in each corridor and each classroom, to find out students' absence and to supervise the students' performance in each class. According to Guo Yuzhuo, a high school biology teacher in Beijing, the system is able to scan through the facial expressions of all students in the classroom and tell whether they are paying attention or doing any other unrelated stuff. After the class, the system generates a report for each individual in the classroom, so she knows how the students spend their time in the 45 minutes. [11]

Internet Censorship

Wechat account blocked after posting sensitive contents

In China, the constitution law confirms that each individual has the freedom of speech, but meanwhile, it states, "while the people exercise this freedom, they can't cause any public chaos, they can't break any laws or cause damages to the society and the country".

In order to better regulate social order on the internet, Machine Learning and Optical Character Recognition(OCR) technologies are widely used, to surveil people's behaviors online. In January 2010, Google announced that they were no longer willing to censor searches in China, and pull out of the country completely. At the same time, Google started to redirect all search queries from to in Hong Kong, which returned results without censorship. On September 9th, 2013, the Chinese Supreme People's Court has announced a new law that, if the online information is used to slander others, and it's clicked or viewed for more than 5,000 times, or reposted for more than 500 times, it shall be considered a defamation crime. [12]

See Also


  1. Privacy in China |(汉语词语)_百度百科,
  2. (2017), 个人隐私_百度百科,
  3. Privacy |(汉语词语)_百度百科,
  4. HTTPS, Wikipedia Contributors (2020), [online] Wikipedia,
  5. Let’s Talk About HTTPS, Google and China - The SSL StoreTM, [online] Hashed Out by The SSL StoreTM,
  6. Let’s Talk About HTTPS, Google and China - The SSL StoreTM, [online] Hashed Out by The SSL StoreTM, .
  7. Sixth Tone (2019), Camera Above the Classroom, [online] Medium,
  8. Wikipedia Contributors (2020), Computer vision, [online] Wikipedia, .
  9. (2019), Chinese police nab murder suspect with facial recognition - Xinhua |,
  10. Keegan, M. (2019). Big Brother is watching: Chinese city with 2.6m cameras is world’s most heavily surveilled, [online] the Guardian,
  11. Sixth Tone (2019), Camera Above the Classroom, [online] Medium,
  12. (2013). 转发500次_百度百科,