Electronic surveillance in China: Skype, QQ and SMS

Submitted by admin on 2008-10-02 Categories:Internet

The recent discovery of Chinese authorities snooping in on Skype communications is big news in the English Internet.

However so far the issue has received little coverage in China; it’s likely to be censored. I noticed a single news article about it on the Chinese portal, it looks like the link doesn’t work anymore though - I’m guessing the article probably got deleted quickly after being noticed by higher-ups or the authorities.

I’m not sure how much people in China consider this “news” anyway - it’s well known in China that all electronic communications is censored and monitored. Online privacy is regularly trampled upon. What’s going on with Skype is only the tip of the iceberg:

  • SMS messages are censored and monitored. SMS messages containing sensitive keywords are never delivered to recepients.
  • All Chinese websites practice self-censorship. Forum posts with sensitive (especially political stuff) content are regularly deleted by administrators.
  • Rest assured that Tencent QQ (the most popular instant messaging client in China) also has surveillance and censorship capabilities.
  • Servers and data centers get unplugged during important political events.
  • The authorities have considered requiring all bloggers to register their real names with the government.

It’s scary that goverments all around the world, not just China, are snooping in on electronic communications. In China, the difference is in scope and sophistication (or lack of it).

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