The latest innovation in digital control… Congress approves mass digital surveillance (again)… Yet another reason to “go dark” today… In the mailbag – “Google has become like toilet paper in the household”…
As we showed you yesterday, China is building the most advanced digital surveillance and control system the world has ever seen – the Social Credit System.
You may think what’s going on in China is far away… and not something you need to be concerned about.
But that’d be a big mistake.
As you’ll learn in today’s dispatch, thanks to a little-known law Congress passed in January – known only as “Section 702” – today’s China could be tomorrow’s America.
The government is piloting the Social Credit System in local jurisdictions around the country. And although full rollout isn’t expected until 2020, it’s already becoming part of everyday life.
Here’s how it works…
If you get caught jaywalking, speeding, smoking where it’s not allowed, returning library books late, or posting the wrong kinds of ideas online… the Chinese feds dock your score.
Get too low of a score… and the bosses in Beijing blacklist you.
That could mean being barred from getting on planes or trains… denied credit cards… or forced to pay back your mortgage at a higher rate. It could also mean being blocked from dating apps… or finding that your kids are blocked from entering the best schools and universities.
Making it all possible are millions of networked machines.
The Social Credit System is being integrated with China’s network of over 170 million (and soon to be 570 million) CCTV cameras. In some cases, you can interface with it via an app on your smartphone. And it’s all backed by the latest advances in artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and data surveillance.
In other words, image-processing software powered by machine learning and Big Data that can identify you by how you walk.
Take Chinese for-profit surveillance firm Watrix. It makes gait analysis software that can identify you from up to 165 feet away – even if your back is turned to the camera.
That’s a big deal. With facial recognition software you need a close-up, high-resolution image of someone’s face to get a match. Combine gait analysis with facial recognition… and you can ID people even if you don’t capture that level of detail.
You can’t even trick the surveillance software. Here’s Watrix CEO Huang Yongzhen in an interview with ABC News…
You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity. Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.
Now imagine this level of surveillance… backed up by the government’s reputation score database. It means you’re always watched… always monitored… always controlled.
But there’s nothing funny about what the Chinese feds are doing.
Just listen to the story Legacy Research co-founder Bill Bonner shared behind closed doors at our Legacy Investment Summit in Bermuda last month…
I wrote a book called Family Fortunes. A billionaire in China saw it, and he translated it into Chinese.
He invited me to come over. And he had this big reception for me. There were hundreds of people. I didn’t know what to make of it – I don’t speak Chinese. So, I gave a speech… it was translated… and everybody seemed happy.
Greg – the guy who runs our Beijing office – subsequently told me that the billionaire has disappeared.
I said, “What do you mean disappeared?” He said, “You go on the internet, there’s no trace. You look him up… you Google him… he’s gone – disappeared.”
He’s been erased… scrubbed out. He is no more.
And we get that.
But the rise in digital authoritarianism isn’t just a China story.
That’s the main takeaway from the 2018 annual report from Freedom House, a think tank that’s partially funded by the U.S. government.
According to the report, the Chinese government is not only using advances in technology to repress freedoms at home. It’s also sending delegations abroad to teach other governments how to do the same thing in their countries.
In January, President Trump signed the renewal of the controversial law known as Section 702.
If you didn’t hear about it at the time, don’t worry. Most people didn’t… and that was the idea.
Here’s the background…
Congress originally passed Section 702 in 2008, under George W. Bush, as an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That act allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to electronically eavesdrop on non-Americans outside of the U.S.
Section 702 gives the greenlight to the NSA to tap cables inside the U.S. and sweep up – without warrant – private communications by Americans.
It also allows the NSA to get surveillance data directly from internet service providers – Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc. – under PRISM, a program classified as top-secret.
Section 702 even permits the NSA to share that data with other Deep State agencies – including the FBI.
If you thought you were having a private phone call or writing a private email this year… think again. Thanks to the renewal of Section 702, the NSA may have been intercepting them.
There may not be an open program of surveillance and control in America as there is in China.
But all the elements are there… ready to be assembled.
And thanks to the renewal of Section 702… mass domestic surveillance is now the law of the land. So don’t expect the courts to protect you.
It’s why Dan – Bill’s co-author on The Bill Bonner Letter – has been urging you to shield yourself by “going dark.”
In short, dump Facebook… de-Google your life… trade in your “smart” phone for a “dumb” phone… and reduce the trail of highly personal data you’re sharing with the world as much as possible.
And when you’re online, make sure to use a virtual private network (VPN). It encrypts your web traffic and masks its origins.
Some of the VPNs recommended by the Legacy Research team at our Summit in Bermuda last month were encrypt.me… IPVanish… and NordVPN.
On Tuesday, we asked for your thoughts on the internal discussion at Google to change the internet from an “unmediated marketplace of ideas” to a “safe space” it can censor.
And we introduced you to two censorship-resistant alternatives to Twitter – Mastodon and Peepeth.
It prompted a ton of great feedback in the mailbag…
Unfortunately, this does not surprise me at all. Look no further than safe rooms on college campuses for proof that we are becoming a nation of spineless, spoiled whiners that need guidance, support, and direction for everything they do. These same people will sit quietly by as every last bit of freedom is taken from them; they will never know what hit them, like pigs to a slaughter.
Independent thinking has become a rare commodity. Our forefathers fought and died for our freedom of speech. We cannot allow almighty Google to censor our speech to appease their Chinese “friends.”
– Herb R.
I have considered it wisdom and have gone the extra mile to avoid using Facebook, Google, Twitter, Messenger, almost every social media, and many free apps. This situation has been worsening for other news sources, too. “Everything will be revealed at some point in time,” Matthew 10:26. I am not here to hasten such a thing. But it will happen. All in God’s own time.
– Lee K.
I’m not really worried. There are already internet places working around this and more will pop up. Mainstream social media will go the way of newspapers and TV news (controlled) and those who care will move on to uncontrolled internet spaces… As long as the internet itself stays distributed and uncontrolled. If that should change, I’m sure someone in this country will find a way around it.
– Anita H.
Google has become like toilet paper in the household. Pretty much can’t do much without it. On the other hand, if I knew of a viable alternative I would use it. Your report shows Peepeth. I will do more research to see how it operates and communicates with other search engines/email providers like Yahoo. Maybe if we knew more about the pros and cons of Peepeth then we could begin to migrate over.
Any censorship or prohibition eventually leads to corruption. Google is no exception. I don’t want anyone thinking for me. Who rides shotgun over the person(s) who decide what is censored or not? Very dangerous territory.
– Stephanie J.
Those two sites will become the Wild, Wild West where anything and everything can happen. No, thank you. Just take Mt. Knox, for example. That was just a crime-infested site for money laundering and illegal activities. I’m all for freedom of speech, but without rules, regulations, and order it becomes unsafe.
– Carlos A.
You conflate the protection of free speech from government censorship with private decisions to not advertise or assist asinine and hateful drivel. “Boohoo, Google won’t link to my site, boohoo.” If the message is important and there are smart people willing to support its dissemination, then it will be heard. If not, then good riddance.
– James L.
You’re right to point out that the censorship of ideas by these mega platforms isn’t unconstitutional. It’s a point we’ve made several times.
But that doesn’t mean online censorship is not a problem. The American Framers never imagined the internet… let alone the dominance of Google and Facebook. Facebook has more than 2 billion users. So does Google. There are only about 4 billion people online.
The trap people fall into is they think it’s okay to censor other people’s ideas. History tells us that folks who condone the censorship of others end up finding the censors coming for them.
Are you comfortable with Facebook, Google, and Twitter playing the role of thought police? Let us know at [email protected].
Until next week…
November 8, 2018