Beijing to Use Cell Phones to Track Citizens, Says It's No Big Deal

Ryan Whitwam

The Next Web is reporting today on a plan in Beijing for the Chinese government to institute a program of tracking the citizenry using their mobile phones. If you think you've figured out why they would do this, you'd apparently be wrong. Officials claim the “Platform for Citizen Movement Information”  will be used to monitor traffic flow. Sounds completely reasonable, right?

Whenever one of Beijing's 17 million cell phone users switch on their device, its location as determined by the towers would be fed into a government database. Using dynamic analysis, the staffers will be able to track the flow of population distribution. At launch, the system will not be available for use by average people, but over time the intention is to offer personalized travel reports to commuters.

We don't deny that having real-time population flow could be useful for avoiding traffic jams, but there are plenty of opt-in location services to do this. It just seems a little too convenient that the government would get a huge mountain of location data on citizens'' movements.

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