CHINA - New Call to Protect Data Privacy

Arno Froese

China produces huge amounts of online data—and little of it is protected. That has led to a thriving market for stolen personal information, from national identification numbers to home addresses.

Some of it is used for state surveillance, while much of it is used for private extortion and fraud.

But increasing public concerns about privacy and surveillance have spurred a nascent movement to secure people’s data. Lone advocates are pushing to hold people accountable for selling stolen personal info. Hackers and bloggers have been posting DIY fixes online to teach others how to encrypt communications or evade surveillance.

“We trade our data privacy for convenience,” says Wu Dong, once a hotel reviewer who has become a campaigner for harsher penalties for personal data thieves.

Wu’s crusade began last year, when he hid a camera in his hotel room to expose substandard cleaning practices. His video went viral.

In retaliation, hotel staff leaked his information—personal details that Chinese hotels collect for the Public Security Ministry.

Wu spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to track down who put his documents online. A hotel employee was eventually fined 500 yuan, or about $80, for passing on the leak. But beyond that, the trail went cold. Wu never found out who initially doxed him.

“If the Internet develops further as it is today, privacy eventually will be the most expensive commodity in a society,” says Yang Geng, an entrepreneur working to prevent such leaks. He was once Amazon China’s chief security officer but left to start Entropage, a company that provides encryption tools users can add to email and messaging apps.

In January 2019, the state cyberspace regulator announced a stronger stance on data collection. Mobile apps “have played an irreplaceable role in promoting economic and social development and serving people’s livelihood,” it said, but the excessive collection of personal information was “abundant” and “very prominent.”

And there is rising demand for data privacy amid growing awareness of state surveillance. A recent study by a research center affiliated with a prominent Chinese newspaper said 74% of respondents opposed the use of facial recognition identity verification methods, largely because they feared the biometric data collected would not be sufficiently protected.

“What the people are most afraid of is the endless demands of the state power for personal information of citizens, and the use of this information to combat and control all acts of resistance,” one of the founders of Pincong, who declined to give their name because of the political sensitivity of their work, tells NPR. “Only absolute security can guarantee free speech.”, 5 January 2020

Arno's commentary

Advancements in the Internet, artificial intelligence, and robotics are only in the beginning stages. No one can really predict the future development of these technologies, except to say there is no end in sight. 

How do we view this development from a Biblical-prophetic perspective? Here again, we reiterate: the world must become one. With the Internet being an undeniable reality, it is the tool that will usher in total control, total “free speech,” but within the parameters dictated by the prevailing government, or—in the end—by Antichrist.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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