In the episode of Leading Lines, one point that Professor Gilliard brought up was that of how privacy infringements in the United States can have consequences that transcend national borders. The example provided: the oppression of Uyghurs in China.
At one point in the episode, Professor Gilliard mentions how FaceApp, an app available to American consumers through the app store that enabled users to leverage AI to perform mobile edits to photos of their faces, stored information on the user base’s facial data and transmitted it to foreign servers in China. While for us, this kind of privacy infringement doesn’t necessarily have any immediate consequences, there is a group that is currently paying a steep price for our negligence: the Uyghurs of China. Gilliard mentions how the data collected by FaceApp was actually leveraged by the Chinese government to train their facial recognition algorithms and ultimately augment their ability to locate and extradite Uyghurs to “reeducation camps”. For the west, such a grim reality is a drastic departure from what we consider as the true threat of increasing government infringement on personal privacy; most discussions of privacy infringements in the west eventually turn into hyperbolic debates about the inevitable slide into a 1984-esque police state, the common theme being that these debates primarily focus on conjecture of how the future may or may not turn out given the actions taken in the status quo. For China, however, these repercussions are unfolding today, and complacency with the privacy of our data in the west is leading to unparalleled and unheard of misery and suffering to the order of millions of people.
Consequently, China must serve as a wakeup call for what a government given too much power over privacy can and will accomplish. No longer should the debate surrounding government infringement of privacy revolve around what-ifs and conjecture. Rather, they should cite China as an inevitable terminus for a government given too much power and too much information.