The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: China

Episode 41 – Facial Recognition

by P. C.

Masks meant to foil facial recognitionChinese citizens are always being watched by their police and government. The government claims it is to ensure that their citizens are as safe as can be. But, what if this power was abused and used for the wrong reasons? Security cameras and AI-driven facial recognition technology are becoming more and more prevalent in China. In this episode, we delve into the complicated truth regarding the surveillance state that is China.

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Campbell, Charlie. (2019, November 2019). What China’s Surveillance Means for the Rest of the World. Time.

Davies, D. (2021, January 5). Facial recognition and beyond: Journalist ventures inside china’s ‘surveillance state’.

Denyer, S. (2018, January 7). China’s watchful eye. The Washington Post.

Kobie, N. (2019, June 7). The complicated truth about China’s social credit system. WIRED UK.

Ng, A. (2020, August 11). China tightens control with facial recognition, public shaming. CNET.

Image: Disinformation,” Derek Bruff, Flickr, CC BY-NC

Surveillance and Freedom of Speech: Should the U.S succumb to an 1984 type of Society?

Put simply, surveillance is a systematic way of searching for a flaw in a pool of data and when a camera is pointed at somebody, they knowingly change the ways that they act and even think while they are being watched. The idea that you are being watched is suggestive that you are already guilty of something; if you were left alone in a room with a chair, table, and a mirror on the wall, you would become suspicious that your actions within the room are being watched and will be under scrutiny. Surveillance actually creates a great deal of paranoia and this has many deep implications.

Since we are granting the government a “wide latitude of surveillance” we can give them the power to access our social media. This especially will impact activist groups that heavily rely on the power of mass communication that social media platforms have. If the government had a greater capacity to monitor what activist groups plan or say, wouldn’t the groups begin to feel pressure from the presence of an authority figure watching over them and suppress some of their own communication. Surveillance now becomes an issue of free speech rather than a tool to help us improve our own society. If every embodiment of a thought such as a text, tweet, email or status update is looked upon by an institution that installs fear in us at time, isn’t our free speech inhibited?

A good comparison to make in this situation is the Chinese Social credit system. It is first important to note that the Chinese government has different expectations then the United States government, their tradition is more focused on promoting good social behavior. However, we should believe that if a similar system for monitoring the public is used, the government will have its own agenda as well. We cannot ensure that politics will eventually play a role in how we are being watched. How will surveillance affect conversations of complicated topics such as gun control or planned parenthood? Our country has people with opinions across a wide spectrum of values, surveillance would aid in suppressing people with specific views and bring social reform to a halt. With a “wide latitude of surveillance”, this reality isn’t very distant, and once we allow the government anymore access to our information, we will never be able to undo that large digital leap of faith.

Insightful ideas provided by General Hayden

The former NSA and CIA director, General Michael V. Hayden, was interviewed by Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and Professor Jon Meacham. Before going to the lecture, I thought that the interview’s going to be a debate of “Security versus Privacy.” However, it is more about political views and the current direction of the United States.

During the interview, questions regarding President Donald Trump’s presidency were asked. It’s the first time I heard political figures being categorized into different groups using the name of the representative presidents. For example, he classified President Trump as a “Jacksonian” and President Obama as a “Jeffersonian.” It’s interesting to see the present figures fit into past groups to help understand the current presidential positions.

What I also paid attention to was the general’s view of the trade war with China. He said in the lecture that Beijing is not the enemy. It’s quite interesting to see a director of CIA from the time of George Bush to have a friendly view of the Chinese government. He claimed that trades and connections with China are beneficial for both sides, especially for the United States. Media these days often exaggerate the crisis and conflicts between the United States and China. They want to make the tension seem more intense so that they’ll have more stories to write about. But it’s not the real situation. There’s a statement in economic that “Trades make everyone better off.” The positive connection between two super countries in the world will definitely increase the economic growth of each country or even the whole world. That’s the point of global cooperation.

The lecture provided several insightful ideas about the current global situation and developing directions that I never heard before. It’s not so much on the topic “The Assault on Intelligence,” but it’s still interesting anyway.

Cryptography for different types of people

In the era of rapid technological advancement, the use of cryptography has become an important factor in protecting corporate employees and their customers’ personal information and privacy. Actually, not only the corporates use the cryptography, we can also see the cryptography appears in our daily life.

In Chapter 1 of The Code Book, the author use many examples of well-resourced people such as Mary Queen, the leader of Greece and Persia, and many other types of people who are very important for the country or the security of the country.

In China, there are also these types of the cipher by using in the ancient. “Yin Fu” can be regarded as the earliest military password. When using the two parts, each party will perform half of it to verify the true and the false. The Yin is different in length and length, representing the corresponding intelligence. There is no text on it, even if the enemy seizes it, it cannot be deciphered. In conjunction with the Yin Fu, there is also a “Yinshu“, which is to write a complete piece of information into three pieces and send them separately. After receiving the complete information, the recipients spliced and read the information.

But why should the author use these types of examples? Are there only these people use the cipher in the daily life? The answer is absolutely not. People also use the cipher in their daily life.

In ancient Chinese folk, people used gossip to represent weather, marriage, health, etc. The writing of Chinese words is very complex in ancient. So people use different combinations of gossip represent different pieces of information, there will be countless types of ciphers, but people only need to understand and get the key of the cipher according to the parts they need.

In this example, we can see that not only the well-resourced people use the cipher in their communications, the civilians also use the cipher in their daily life. The reason why most of the well-resourced people’s examples are given is these types of ciphers change the world. In other words, these ciphers have some significant influences. Also we can say they survived those ages.

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