Using online behaviour and social activity, government looks to catch terrorists and criminals in advance

Reports from the Dark Web are filtering through: China has activated its ‘predictive policing’ platform known as the Peoples’ Public Security Evaluation or PPSE.

Integrating a complex network of surveillance apparatus that has been in use for some time, China has added artificial intelligence based algorithms and sophisticated machine learning programs to trigger advance warning of criminal activity and social unrest. This allows authorities to profile individual citizens not only on their online activities, but also on where they go and who they meet.

Individual financial transactions are also parsed by the algorithm to identify suspicious buying behaviour. And China can do this for a billion citizens – they’ve got the biggest supercomputers in the world.

“It’s one of the unintended consequences of Google’s DeepMind beating everyone at Go,” says Patrick Tucker of Defense One. “It’s shown authorities that extremely complex options can be analyzed and made predictive, even the way people behave in a crowd on video, and then later as normal citizens.”

Neural networks have become so powerful they can tell if you are lying and read your emotional state from subtle visual clues. Now the Chinese are using this power to detect when people are thinking about crime, even before they perform a criminal act.

“The problem is, in China, a crime is whatever they say it is,” remarks Tucker. “When precrime meets thoughtcrime, then Big Brother has really arrived!” China Electronics Technology Group Chief Engineer Wu Manqing prefers to call it “a unified information environment.” It’s still big. And scary.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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