March 4, 2019

EFF: Massive Database Leak Gives Us a Window into China’s Digital Surveillance State.

Earlier this month, Gevers discovered an insecure MongoDB database filled with records tracking the location and personal information of 2.6 million people located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The records include individuals’ national ID number, ethnicity, nationality, phone number, date of birth, home address, employer, and photos.

Over a period of 24 hours, 6.7 million individual GPS coordinates were streamed to and collected by the database, linking individuals to various public camera streams and identification checkpoints associated with location tags such as “hotel,” “mosque,” and “police station.” The GPS coordinates were all located within Xinjiang.

This database is owned by the company SenseNets, a private AI company advertising facial recognition and crowd analysis technologies.

A couple of days later, Gevers reported a second open database tracking the movement of millions of cars and pedestrians. Violations like jaywalking, speeding, and going through a red-light are detected, trigger the camera to take a photo, and ping a WeChat API, presumably to try and tie the event to an identity.

China may have a working surveillance program in Xinjiang, but it’s a shockingly insecure security state. Anyone with an Internet connection had access to this massive honeypot of information.

I wonder if this leak might have been intentional — an electronic version of 1984′s every-present “Big Brother Is Watching You” warnings.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): A massively intrusive surveillance apparatus with inadequate security seems like a great opportunity for opponents — say, the US — to sow discord and unrest in the event of conflict.

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