Google and IBM are co-founders of an American nonprofit that is helping China’s communist government conduct mass surveillance against its citizens, reports The Intercept.
The OpenPower Foundation has set up a collaboration between IBM, a Chinese company called Semptian and U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently, the investigative news site said.
A Semptian employee said Beijing is using the technology to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people.
The OpenPower Foundation said in a statement that it “does not become involved, or seek to be informed, about the individual business strategies, goals or activities of its members,” due to antitrust and competition laws.
An IBM spokesperson said that his company “has not worked with Semptian on joint technology development.” Google did not reply to a request for comment from The Intercept.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Intercept it’s “disturbing to see that China has successfully recruited Western companies and researchers to assist them in their information control efforts.”
Anna Bacciarelli, a researcher at Amnesty International, said all companies “have a responsibility to conduct human rights due diligence throughout their operations and supply chains, including through partnerships and collaborations.”
The Intercept said a substantial portion of Semptian’s business is generated through a front company named iNext that sells the internet surveillance and censorship tools to governments.
Semptian, through iNext, has developed a mass surveillance system named Aegis that can “store and analyze unlimited data,” according to documentation acquired by The Intercept.
It allows government spies to see “the connections of everyone,” including “location information for everyone in the country.”
The system can also censor content.
The Intercept said that, according to two sources, Aegis equipment is embedded in China’s phone and internet networks, enabling the country’s government to secretly collect people’s email records, phone calls, text messages, cellphone locations and web browsing histories.
‘Social credit system’
China, meanwhile, is establishing an Orwellian “social credit system” that monitors citizens’ behavior. It rewards behaviors approved by the authoritarian regime and punishes those it rejects, ranking people according to their “social credit.”
A government document said the system is based on the idea that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful.
It’s currently being piloted by millions of people. Beijing plans to make it fully operational nationwide by 2020.