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China Tries Its Hand At Pre-Crime (bloomberg.com) 99

schwit1 writes: China's effort to flush out threats to stability is expanding into an area that used to exist only in dystopian sci-fi: pre-crime. The Communist Party has directed one of the country's largest state-run defense contractors, China Electronics Technology Group, to develop software to collate data on jobs, hobbies, consumption habits, and other behavior of ordinary citizens to predict terrorist acts before they occur. "It's very crucial to examine the cause after an act of terror," Wu Manqing, the chief engineer for the military contractor, told reporters at a conference in December. "But what is more important is to predict the upcoming activities." The program is unprecedented because there are no safeguards from privacy protection laws and minimal pushback from civil liberty advocates and companies, says Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who has advised Google on freedom of expression and the Internet.
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China Tries Its Hand At Pre-Crime

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  • Hmmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kwiecmmm ( 1527631 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @05:44PM (#51639691)

    I think I may try to overthrow....

    Hey get away from me!!! I didn't do anything!!!!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's called DUI.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh, no. If you're driving under the influence you are going to ruin your life and others, it is guaranteed. That isn't thought crime.

      • Umm... maybe at one point in history. But now even one drink from the night before can push you over the 'limit' in some parts. Thats not driving while drunk. Thats not a 'guarantee'. Thats mission creep.
      • Uh, no. If you're driving under the influence you are going to ruin your life and others, it is guaranteed. That isn't thought crime.

        Do you have any data to back that up. Does every act of driving under the influence ruin a life? Is the converse true - does every act of driving sober not lead to a life ruined? If not, what are the numbers for the 4 cases (sober - life ruined, drunk - life ruined, sober - life not ruied, drunk - life not ruined). Until you can quantify those things in a random sampling of car journeys, your claim is baseless.

      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

        If you're driving under the influence you are going to ruin your life and others, it is guaranteed.

        The actual facts: there are enormous numbers of instances where people have driven under the influence (of all manner of debilitating things... alcohol, drugs [but I repeat myself], emotions, injuries, sleep deprivation, children in the car, fox news on the radio, texting, coughing fits, etc.) which reduced their general ability to react and think and have caused no one any vehicle-related problems at all. Be

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I used to be a drinker. I'm also an automotive enthusiast. I've probably, given all the guilty years, driven while intoxicated more often than I've driven sober. 'Tis sad but true. I've zero at-fault accidents but I have been hit while at a stop light. I had a speeding ticket back in the mid-1970s. I have no moving violations. I have two parking tickets, one was when I was not the driver but had let someone use my car - but I'm accountable for both. The second of those tickets was my fault for not taking th

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @05:57PM (#51639777)
    >> China Tries Its Hand At Pre-Crime

    "Tries its hand"? I thought the use of secret internal police (e.g., the Stasi) charged with stamping out thought crime was covered in communism 101.
    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

      Communism? Are you saying the NSA and FBI are communist organizations?

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        The commies learned it from the Tsar's secret police.
        Conrad's "Under Western Eyes" is very good fiction about the topic which makes you wonder why Tom Clancy ever bothered to write spy novels with something as good as that around.
    • China is not, has not been and probably never will be anything even remotely resembling communism. Yeah, yeah, I can already see you reaching for your true Scottsman. Jeez.

      Communism is the economic system where the Means of Production are owned by society at large. That's it. Really. Nothing more to it.

      China is a Kleptocracy. A large scale operation that funnels wealth and power to a lucky few through organized theft (with a healthy dose of violence). They stopped pretending the people owned the mea
      • by schwit1 ( 797399 )
        Success is dependent on the majority of the populous having a decent work ethic and minimal government corruption. Otherwise you get Greece and Venezuela, and where the USA is headed.
      • Well, it is No True Scotsman. The Left doesn't want the albatross of China hanging over its head, so they redefined socialism so as to exclude them.

        China is a Communist Party that has taken the capitalist road. It's a heresy of socialism and has gotten them expelled from the Leftist camp. The CCP doesn't care, they had 40 years of correct Marxism and they realized that it meant nothing but poverty. Seriously, the Chinese people were better off under the Nationalist robber barons. They got more to eat

  • by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @05:57PM (#51639785) Homepage

    "The program is unprecedented because there are no safeguards from privacy protection laws and minimal pushback from civil liberty advocates and companies"

    That's because China doesn't have privacy protection, or civil liberties.

    This is China we're talking about.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      "minimal pushback from civil liberty advocates and companies"

      Pre-Pushback was version 1.0. They've already mastered stopping liberty advocates before they can push back.... Pre-Crime is version 2.0.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Pre-pushback seems to be fairly easy to accomplish. They simply make the citizens powerless and kill enough of those who did push back and that sends a message to others who might have been inclined to keep pushing. Sure, they could have tried reeducation and technological solutions - indeed, they did. However, they discovered good old-fashioned violence and threats of violence work better than other processes. The added bonus is that bullets are probably cheaper.

        As an aside, it makes me wonder what the men

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Based on past behavior, the US gov't probably does the same, but doesn't tell anybody. They'll use some creative interpreting of a vague word in the law to justify it if somebody spills the beans, like they've done in the past with phone meta-data.

      The only real difference is that the US has to be more clandestine about it among their population to avoid raising suspicion. The Chinese government WANTS their citizens to be suspicious and paranoid, it's how they keep them "in line".

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        The US also can't convict people based on methods where they violate your rights. The usual path for abuse is parallel construction of a case, once the illegal tip-off let's them know about a target.

        In China, however, you don't need to worry about that. They'll just arrest you and use the method that was illegal in the US to gather the evidence to convict you. In China, all of that surveillance is perfectly legal.

        For pre-crime, the real problem with pre-crime in the US is that you will never be able to c

        • For pre-crime, the real problem with pre-crime in the US is that you will never be able to convict someone "beyond a reasonable doubt" unless you have absolutely ironclad scientific proof that the events would have happened the exactly same way as in the prediction, no matter what, every time with perfect accuracy. And then, you will need to explain why you are convicting someone for a crime you could have prevented by simply calling up the victim and telling them to go to a safe location at such and such a time.

          They specifically mention terrorism. I don't think either of your points are valid. You can't call up a stadium and evacuate it to prevent victims as the terrorist will just choose a different target and even if they don't the stadium itself even without anyone in it is a target. Likewise, even in the USA, if you find someone with an apartment full of explosions, a jury would easily convict them.
          Yes, single victim precrimes like robbery and rape would be difficult but that's not likely something that any

          • What China is pursuing is the same thing the USA has pursued since 9/11 which is looking at where people travel, who they hang out with, and what they say to try to stop mass casualty events^W^W^W^W changes to the political, financial, and societal status quo before they happen.

            FTFY

            Strat

            • What China is pursuing is the same thing the USA has pursued since 9/11 which is looking at where people travel, who they hang out with, and what they say to try to stop mass casualty events^W^W^W^W changes to the political, financial, and societal status quo before they happen.

              FTFY

              Strat

              You say that like it's a bad thing. The primary goal of the government is to create a safe, stable environment. Maintaining the status quo is its job. It only becomes a problem when it interferes with progress or unfairly favors one group over another.

              • The primary goal of the government is to create a safe, stable environment.

                No.

                The only legitimate role of government is to protect & safeguard the rights and freedoms of its' citizens.

                Strat

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            I presume in the case of a stadium attack, they'd use the prediction as probable cause as a search warrant justification or something on the terrorists. You might not be able to obtain a conviction for terrorism, but you might effectively break up the attempt by locating them and any weapons, which they could then be convicted for.

        • The US also can't convict people based on methods where they violate your rights.

          Ever heard of Guantanamo?

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Guantanamo Bay does not hold US Citizens.

            They also aren't convicts. If they were, they'd be in a prison.

            I'm not 100% happy about Guantanamo, but let's not suggest it is something it is not.

    • minimal pushback from civil liberty advocates

      The whole world is suffering from that right now. It's especially notable in the U.S., a country once famous for its civil liberties and its activists. Where are they now? Dead for the most part.

    • why doesn't China have these things? They're objectively desirable. Their elite certainly have them. If the West has these things why can't China?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That sounds like a different way of portraying the NSA.

    Maybe China's just trying to get people to realize what those guys are doing?

    Why not just talk about it and make it public? Surely it's not to hide that you're banging half the city, everyone already knows that, don't they?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No much different than of Predictive Policing [wikipedia.org], or Predictive Assessments [theguardian.com], or Predictive Profiling [wikipedia.org], or Predictive Markets [cia.gov], or Datamining and Predictive Analysis [google.com] and so on and so on...

    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

      It's not much different, that is true, but it is "pre-crime" in the "we have no evidence, so we're going fishing without a warrant, probable cause, oath or affirmation, and if we don't like what we find, you're going to see some consequences" sense.

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        if we don't like what we find, you're going to see some consequences

        Just wait until the end of the year when the department has to start showing some results in order to justify its budget. "Yeah... we had a slow start but towards the end we executed 50 pre-terrorists and saved China! Next year give us double the budget and we'll do even better!"

  • the ideas and techniques will be exported and adopted. Governments love this tripe.

    I recall reading a year or so ago about one of the founders of a tracking company. He says the sheer amount of shadow profiles on people are staggering. He said if gathering and collating this data were ever to be taken very seriously by anyone in power, the average person would be screwed. He made the obvious recommendation to buy as much as possible using cash. Why? More and more insurance and other companies are actually t

  • ... as long as they don't actually arrest someone who hasn't actually committed a crime yet. At most, perhaps, it may invite a reason to launch an investigation, and possibly attempt to create additional safeguards for the possibility that a crime might occur at some point in the future, but the future is inherently unknowable(*), andd it would be hugely unjust to punish someone for a crime that they hadn't actually committed.

    * For example, I could make a machine that outputs 1 if you input 0 and outpu

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      Image a world where the main purpose of justice were rehabilitation and societal protection instead of revenge a.k.a. retribution. Would our prisons continue to be depressing, dangerous places, or would they look more like mental health facilities? Would we require a lower standard of proof to separate dangerous people from society, or would it continue to be difficult to give people the help they need and prevent them from causing harm to others? Would there any longer be a point in blacklisting a person f

      • Would our prisons continue to be depressing, dangerous places, or would they look more like mental health facilities?

        So, instead of failing to rehabilitate (and producing even worse crimininals), they can merely fail to heal the crazies, probably make 'em even crazier in the process (Paxil, anyone?!). Whats not to like?? Hell, the BATFE can even give 'em some guns to play with, give them the "tools" to make some politically-useful headlines... ;)

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I don't think the BATFE actually gives any of those products away. It might be a more interesting society if they did but they do not currently have that in their mandate. I'm not exactly sure what kind of political changes we'd have to undergo before the BATFE is tasked with provisioning.

      • If the idea of "pre-crime" sounds too much like Big Brother, maybe it's because our values are somewhat less than enlightened.

        Or maybe, Ichijo-san, your crazy ass needs to go back to pre-War Nippon because with ideas as "progressive" as that (/sarc), you sure as hell don't need to be sharing the modern era with the rest of us!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Deterrence matters too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      WTF are you talking about? I could go through the drivel you wrote in your asterisk point for point and show you were it makes no sense, but I'd like to give you a chance to explain yourself first.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        I am talking about the existence of free will, and the inherent problem it presents with trying to impose actions on someone in response to something they have not yet done (since I show that any sufficiently sophisticated illusion of free will can be indistinguishable from any actual free will, and thus may as well be called the latter).
      • He means that you can't tell a contrarian with the power to change it what his future will be.

    • the future is inherently unknowable(*), andd it would be hugely unjust to punish someone for a crime that they hadn't actually committed.

      There are interesting questions. If a magic machine can predict a future murder with 99.9% accuracy, and has the ability to kill the murderer in advance, but not the ability to communicate it to a third party for any lesser prevention, is it good to use. Using it saves 999 lives, for every one life it costs. That's a good deal.

      It gets even more interesting if you're on

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        My point is that if you prevent a murder that was predicted to happen, then the prediction is false, one can argue that it may have hypothetically been true if you had not prevented it, but this is irrelevant... it did not happen that way, and so you cannot know with 100% certainty that the so-called prediction would have been accurate without your intervention.
      • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

        i think you've been watching too much star trek. Spock, specifically. Quite seriously.

  • by doing this is the cause of such acts?
    Self-fulfilling prophecy.
    • by zlives ( 2009072 )

      so... YAYYY it works!!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why would this be the breaking point, rather than The Great Leap Forward (some 60 million dead), the invasion of Tibet (genocide), or the Cultural Revolution (what's a few million more?) didn't do the trick?

  • Q: Do you plan to be a member of the Communist Party?

    A: No

    Q: Okay, then you're under arrest

  • I wonder if being a /. reader will raise your profile for being a troublemaker in such systems?
  • in the US:

    http://www.predpol.com/ [predpol.com]

    http://www.ibm.com/software/an... [ibm.com]

    http://www.motorolasolutions.c... [motorolasolutions.com]

    http://computerstories.net/mic... [computerstories.net]

    PDF from RAND:

    https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles... [ncjrs.gov]

    and so on and so on.

  • It's in all the Fed newsletters.

    The fact that we haven't told you about doesn't mean we don't use it, just that we don't tell you you're sheep.

  • The reason we don't do it here is because of the false positives. But if you don't really care about individual liberties, the calculation becomes a lot simpler. Do I get a better crime reduction from the yuan I invest in this than I would spending them elsewhere.

  • Well, the tools that works against terrorism are intelligence and infiltration, and I am certain China's leaders know that.

    Hence I suspect this is just a posture. In other words, they are just showing the population that they take care of the problem. The advertised method is a nonsense, but the methods that make sense cannot be shown, therefore the need for something else.

  • "China's effort to flush out threats to stability is expanding into an area that used to exist only in dystopian sci-fi: pre-crime."

    Easy. Everyone criticizing the government will be guilty of high treason later on.

  • China's reported goal here is to "collate data on jobs, hobbies, consumption habits, and other behavior of ordinary citizens to predict terrorist acts before they occur." The goal of the Patriot act was "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism". They key word being "intercept", which they were seeking to achieve by large-scale monitoring of communications. I'm sure the US would have tried to collate these data to predict who is a threat.
  • It'll work this time, just trust us!

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