China Moving Ahead with Spyware

Not that it’s surprising, but after a lot of public debate and international attention to their Green Dam-Youth Escort spyware program, the Chinese government will still press forward and require it be installed on every new computer sold after July 1st. The Chinese Communist Party has their heart set on a new toy that will help them monitor what their citizenry are reading, saying and doing online – and apparently they won’t be dissuaded.

Rather than agreeing to scrap the software altogether, the Chinese government has responded to the technical criticisms by ordering that the potential security breaches be eliminated.

“The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told us to make the software safer as soon as a series of security vulnerabilities were found,” Zhang Chenmin, the general manager of Jinhui Computer System Engineering, which helped design the software, told China Daily.

To say that the concern of critics was that non-governmental hackers could break into the system and see what people are doing is to misstate and fail to address legitimate concerns about this software. It isn’t just that it was poorly designed and had security holes, it’s that it fundamentally enables the government to do more than the stated purpose. It’s a tool for the Chinese government to spy on their citizens and control what they see and do. The extent to which this particular program aides those goals is subsidiary to the massive existing structures the Chinese government has already put in place to block the free flow of ideas in China and to monitor what people are saying to each other. To that end, it’s somewhat irrelevant if the software updates to this particular program do make it harder for the program to reach beyond pornography. The addition to the Chinese government’s censorship system is smaller than it might have been otherwise, but the system itself remains large and fundamentally totalitarian in nature.

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