China’s biometric monitoring program in Tibet advances to integration initiatives

The Chinese government in Tibet is linking the various biometric surveillance systems and databases. It’s the next logical step after deploying so many of the systems to maintain control of the region.

It’s unlikely that remote and sparsely populated Tibet is monitored in the same blanket fashion as China’s Xinjiang region, but according to a new report what information has been collected is being tied into numerous biometric and other databases controlled by the autocratic government in Beijing.

The report was created by two public policy organizations that advocate for Tibet’s restored independence – Turquoise Roof and Tibet Watch.

They say the Chinese government has, since 2021, required Tibetans to install the National Anti-Fraud Centre app, which government officials say has attack-prevention and -reporting functions.

Police reportedly have set up roadblocks and force travelers to download and enroll the app right there using facial recognition.

According to the report, the government has made downloading the software a legal requirement. Officials allege that they are only trying to reduce internet fraud in a region with a 2022 gross domestic product of US$29.7 billion.

The authors report interviewing Tibetan sources and nationals arriving in India as refugees. They also had access to “big data generated from official government sources, mobile digital forensics in the context of contemporary Tibet, and in-depth analysis of surveillance System Description Documents.”

In other sections of the report, the authors refer to and quote an unnamed a “Tibetan refugee” from the Golog areas. It’s unclear how many refugees were interviewed.

They say they conducted a “dynamic analysis” of the anti-fraud app on Windows and Android devices and found that data collected by the software “could extend beyond internet fraud detection.” The app is capable of linking to “broader control mechanisms.”

More broadly in Tibet, according to the report, Beijing has integrated “AI-driven systems fusing facial recognition with internet browsing and app-based monitoring” to DNA and GIS tracking data.

For example, there is the “’Tibet Underworld Criminal Integrated Intelligence Application Platform’, a sophisticated big data policing platform.” Researchers reportedly analyzed procurement notices to find that it “amalgamates data from various existing Public Security Bureau systems in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) into a central Oracle database.”

The authors say there are reports that people accessing offshore financial companies with their phones are picked up for an investigation.

News Desk

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