Beijing Taxis Now Police State-Compatible

Beijing taxis with remote-controlled microphones are cruising for fares - and information for the Chinese government.

The U.S. State Department has warned visitors to the Olympics that no place is safe from eavesdropping. "All visitors should be aware that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public or private locations," the department said on March 20.

Yaxon Networks, based in Xiamen in Fujian province, says on its Web site that its devices allow the police or a service center to "judge if the driver is in danger" through remote surveillance or wiretapping. If it is necessary, the service center can immobilize a taxi remotely by "cutting off the oil or electric supply," the company adds.


(Beijing Taxi with small microphone [circle at left])

Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch states "This seems to suggest an effort by the police or other security forces to eavesdrop on conversations of passengers, rather than for the immediate safety and security of the taxi driver." It is not known whether all of the devices are turned on, or if they are all listened to by the state.

This news item makes me think of the telescreen from 1984 for it's surveillance capabilities (Winston Smith never knew when the security police were listening, either).

The ability to turn off the engine of the car reminded me of the cop block described by Greg Bear in Quantico.

From Beijing Taxis are rigged for eavesdropping.

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