December 18, 2020
“US Tapping China: Trends of Surveillance and Digital Authoritarianism in the US and China” is a paper by Paula Soumaya Domit, Rebecca Leeper, and Larissa Zutter, published using the Common Good Digital Framework in September 2020.
The full PDF of the paper can be found here. The introduction is attached below
The United States is built upon a foundation of civil liberties including privacy and due process. Such liberties protect citizens from government overreach and promote democracy. With the advent of disruptive technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI) and the ability to store and process big-data, surveillance methods, which fundamentally erode prized civil liberties, have been augmented. China’s use of such technology is an illustration of how they can
1 be deployed to oppress and perpetuate totalitarianism — also known as digital authoritarianism .
This concerning trend is not confined to the Chinese state, but rather is an international trend. The evolution of surveillance methods and policies utilized by the US government bear a striking resemblance to the trajectory which led the Chinese government to become an authoritarian surveillance regime.
This paper will first review the existing discriminatory surveillance regime of the Chinese government, including its technical capacity and the policies which uphold it. The technologies used by the United States to advance their surveillance methods since 2001 will also be examined. In addition, a legal review of US policies related to privacy and surveillance will be outlined. Finally, we will investigate a pivotal case study of government coordination with a private company, namely Yahoo. The technologies developed, policies instituted, and actions taken by the US government all serve to expose the United States’ trajectory towards digital totalitarianism, as they mirror, though more covertly, the behaviors of the Chinese government. The conclusion will then address US policy recommendations to reverse its current track and emerge as an international leader promoting its democratic values as they relate to AI and surveillance.