Revealed: Massive Chinese Police DatabaseJanuary 29, 2021
“Clearing violent and terrorist audio and video has always been a very important part of stability work. Our community pays a lot of attention to this work. Because the Chinese New Year break is coming to an end, people will increasingly come back to work, therefore our community decided to conduct a large scale computer and cellphone inspection for workers who are coming back. We inspect stored information on every household and every person’s cellphone and computer. To date, we did not discover violent and terrorist audio and video among the residents in the area. We will continue this work later and will record the results.”
Some of the most invasive data in the database comes from “anti-terrorism sword” phone inspection tools. Police at checkpoints, which pervade the city, make people plug their phones into these devices, which come from various manufacturers. They gather personal data from phones, including contacts and text messages, and also check pictures, videos, audio files, and documents against a list of prohibited items. They can display WeChat and SMS text messages.
This pattern of frequent police stops is seen in other parts of Ürümqi. Documents discuss police checking people’s phones upwards of three or four times in one night, and how this makes it difficult to stay on the good side of the populace, which is clearly becoming annoyed.
The database also helps quantify how broadly phone surveillance was deployed around Ürümqi. For example, in the space of one year and 11 months, Chinese authorities collected close to 11 million SMS messages. In one year and 10 months, they gathered 11.8 million records on phone call duration and parties involved in the call. And in a one-year, 11-month period, they gathered seven million contacts and around 255,000 records on phone hardware.
Citizens in Xinjiang are also routinely stopped outside their homes by authorities. The database contains records from more than two million checkpoint stops in Ürümqi (population 3.5 million) and the surrounding area in a two-year period. It includes a list of nearly three dozen categories of people to stop . . . When a person is stopped at a checkpoint, they go through an ID check, typically including processing via facial recognition . . . If a person’s face is displayed with a yellow, orange, or red indicator on a computer, showing the system has deemed them suspicious or criminal, they are questioned and may be arrested.