Surveillance technologies now available — including the monitoring of virtually all digital information — have advanced to the point where much of the essential apparatus of a police state is already in place.

Al Gore

In China, there is a new two-part programme in development to monitor all Chinese citizens…and then rank them based on ‘social credit scores’.

Business Insider reports:

The Chinese state is setting up a vast ranking system system [sic] that will monitor the behaviour of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.”

The “social credit system,” first announced in 2014, aims to reinforce the idea that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful,” according to a government document.

The program is due to be fully operational by 2020, but is being piloted for millions of people already. The scheme is mandatory.

It’s a mass surveillance system like no one has ever seen before.

Drive a little too fast…jaywalk…or pay your taxes a day late…and your score drops.

Drop too low and you might get put on the naughty list.

That could mean no staying in high-end hotels…or not getting low-interest mortgages…or losing your job at a government agency.

And it could quickly spiral into manipulating your behaviour.

Drink a little too much? The state could put a hold on your ID preventing you from ordering another drink.

Overweight? No more meat pies for you. Have this Caesar salad instead.

Vote for the wrong party? Enjoy your low-priority status for the next three years.

Now, most Money Morning New Zealand readers aren’t Chinese. And so this revelation won’t seem more than amusing…but it should be.


Because the world is following the Chinese’s footsteps…


Land of the Long White Cloud-based surveillance

It all starts with mass surveillance. A way for the state to tap into your daily activities, locations, preferences, buying habits, and more.

An Orwellian world 2.0.

It goes beyond security cameras on the corner; a modern 1984 taps into the very life stream of our modern world — the Internet.

It means that your phone, your Facebook, your messages and your search history are all tools in the state’s surveillance toolkit.

(If you’re up for something spooky, see where Google has tracked you here.)

And before you write me off for being too fringy, consider this — New Zealand’s government has publicly admitted to developing a mass surveillance branch of the GCSB (New Zealand’s NSA). They called it ‘Speargun’.

Check my facts here, here and here.

And it’s all public. John Key himself confirmed it.

The idea was to tap into the trans-Pacific fibre optic cables to monitor all traffic coming in and out of New Zealand.

Now John Key eventually claimed that he personally stopped the project from coming to fruition…but there are conflicting documents that point to the continuation of the programme.

And today, we have Project Cortex, Spearhead’s successor.

Feel free to read about it on GCSB’s website here.

Basically, New Zealand’s biggest companies and organisations can ‘consent’ to the GCSB injecting Project Cortex into their infrastructure. The public goal is to help prevent cyber-attacks…but it will involve lots and lots of data mining.

Yes, that data could be yours.

And that’s just what’s publicly available. Imagine what lies below the surface. [openx slug=inpost]


Four steps to protect yourself today

So let’s get practical.

If you believe there’s an inkling of truth to the idea that someone out there could be gathering your data, you might want to take a few measures to protect yourself.

Dan Denning, one of our network’s top analysts, has provided four recommendations to help you ‘go dark’.

  1. Delete Facebook — Today’s social world encourages you to be connected all the time. But when you are, you’re also sending gigabytes of personal data straight into the GCSB’s servers. You’re voluntarily offering your privacy by being active on Facebook. Learn how to secure yourself
  2. De-Google — Google is a tough one to elude. But it’s possible. Consider searching through an alternative search engine and using a different browser than Google Chrome. We like DuckDuckGo. It’s a tracker-less and high-security browser that comes with a solid search service.
  3. Get ‘dumb’ — Phones are the worst offender. It’s a homing beacon for your location and activities…and a 24/7 transmitter of your data. And most of your apps also track your location, access your messages, contacts, photos and more. The only true way to avoid all of this is to buy a ‘dumb’ phone — a phone without apps. But you’ll also get the added benefits of being less connected to your phone and more connected to the world around you.
  4. Encrypt — If you do keep your smartphone, consider moving to an encrypted messenger app. Lots of folks use regular texting, WhatsApp, or Skype…but those guys are owned by big data miners like Microsoft or Facebook. Check out Wickr, Telegram, or Signal for a much more secure alternative.


Phase two

Maybe you’ve gotten this far and you’re thinking — I’m not that interesting. If a GCSB agent is monitoring my activity, they’re going to be really bored. Oh look, he’s playing Candy Crush…again.

But the fact is, surveillance is only the first step. Phase two involves using the information gleaned to shape how you act.

Think about it. If you were to repeatedly check the blog of some National politician…that information would be gathered and attached to your profile.

When it comes time for election season, you could start noticing that all of the ads you see are for Labour…or your Facebook newsfeed starts containing more pro-Labour articles…or your inbox starts filling up with promotional content from — you guessed it — Labour.

The scary part — that’s where we are today! That’s not some futuristic prediction. It’s exactly what you and other voters experience right now.

Imagine how much worse it could get…Actually, don’t.

Just look north to China and see how this whole thing plays out…and consider — am I ready for that?

Taylor Kee
Editor, Money Morning New Zealand