CHINA'S NEVER-ENDING cavalcade of not-so-covert espionage tools has just taken another form.
The country is looking to install RFID chips to every car in its borders, starting on a voluntary basis, rolling out as a mandatory addition for new vehicles from 2019.
Given that there's none of that messy democracy to worry about, the decision has been made and kicks in on 1 July.
The official government line is that it will help the country to understand, study and prevent congestion and therefore reduce pollution, which ranks amongst some of the worst in the world.
The Wall Street Journal report also suggests the country is hoping the scheme will reduce the possibility of cars being used as weapons in terrorist scenarios.
Although it is not the first such system using RFID (India, Brazil, South Africa and Dubai are all either using one or planning one), the reputation of the Chinese government suggests that many people will assume, quite legitimately, that this is more covert surveillance.
RFID tags can't pinpoint your car, but they will checkpoint you each time you go past a reader. But coupled with other schemes like the notorious ‘Social Credit' system which has seen ‘millions' denied flight boarding due to low social status. We could see the mesh tightening around China's billion-plus inhabitants.
All these ideas seem horrendous but can actually also have some positive improvements, such as the ability to automatically pay for petrol.
Some parts of China also use the ANPR system - the ability of law-enforcement officers to machine read your licence plate as it drives past a checkpoint, equipped CCTV camera or officer with a handheld scanner.
That terrifying prospect seems like a huge infraction on the privacy of citizens of China. Until you realise that British authorities are already using exactly the same system for everything from bridge and congestion tolls, to tracing your movements. Right now. µ
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