The Terminator movies were prediction, not fiction. The proof abounds in China, recently dubbed by CBC as the world’s first digital dictatorship.
China has interfaced wireless technology with surveillance cameras and facial recognition software to form Sky Net. And fifth-generation mobile phones, or 5G, are coming to Canada. That means Chinese technology and its usage are of eminent concern to Canadians.
“Technology has made the dystopian novels of the 20th century almost seem quaint because the level of surveillance is so great and very inconsistent with our own views, and our own society, of the right of individuals to live their lives privately,” former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell said in a recent segment on CBC News.
“Some of the new monitoring and surveillance is straight out of Orwell’s 1984 and should concern everyone,” said MP Erin O’Toole, the foreign affairs critic for the federal Conservatives. O’Toole believes Canada shouldn’telut allow Chinese companies like Huawei to implement 5G here. “There’s been a real concern amongst the Five Eyes security partners – United States, U.K., Australia, New Zealand – that some of the smaller partners including Canada might be a bit of a crack into the security establishment.”
The Royal United Services Institute think-tank agrees. It advised the U.K that “Allowing Huawei’s participation is at best naive, at worst irresponsible.”
Although Huawei is a private enterprise, should the Chinese government request private information from the company, it would have no choice but to comply.
The U.S. says Huawei stole trade secrets from American company T-Mobile and paid bonuses to employees who participated in the theft. So the U.S. has barred Huawei from servicing federal agencies and establishing 5G networks, as has Australia.
Canada hasn’t declared a firm decision on Huawei’s future here, nor has its Five Eyes partner New Zealand. Last December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a decision on Huawei should not be political. That rings hollow to the Chinese now, given the political pressure apparent in the SNC-Lavalin case and Canada’s role in the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
China is a key parts supplier to Bell, Telus and Rogers. Canada has given Finnish company Nokia a $40-million research deal for 5G, but its parent company is now under investigation for apparent traffic of sensitive data from its phones to a server in China.
Even if the Chinese tentacles could be completely severed, 5G still presents higher security risks. The entire point of 5G is to deliver more data from more data points – any of which could provide a breach into the entire network.
The Canadian government has announced it will auction off broadband space for 5G in 2020. In the meantime, the 5G pilot is going on at Ottawa City Hall. Strangely, the capital cities of both the United States and Canada are test sites for the technology’s rollout. “The nation’s capital has to be the worst place to serve as a guinea pig,” Linnea Warren testified last November at a Washington, D.C., public roundtable in opposition to a 5G rollout there.
Sky Net’s social credit system now spans China. People’s privileges are determined by their activities, purchases, Internet surfing and social media comments. Get a demerit and so will your friends and family – so social credit equals social pressure. Critics of the government may find themselves unable to take a train, ride a plane or rent property.
China insists its social credit system keeps people safe and makes their lives easier. And the organizations dreaming up the 5G world in the West invoke chillingly similar doublespeak.
For example, the ARC Advisory Group says, “Broadly, a smart city is connected, intelligent and optimized by a municipality to reduce costs, increase safety, attract investment, be sustainable and enhance livability. To get there will require smart governance, the education of a smart workforce and smart citizens, the digital transformation of assets, and the deployment of sensor networks with ubiquitous multimodal connectivity.”
That means everyone must be re-educated for a world full of machines that govern everything in steely alignment with the technocrats’ goals.
ARC says smart buildings “will also aggregate, analyze and stream data to edge computing where advanced predictive analytic engines will enable new levels of control and security.”
Marshall McLuhan said every technology makes something obsolete. To some extent, 5G makes people obsolete. China is already working on 6G.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has become real.
Lee Harding is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.