China wants to track citizens’ cars with mandatory RFID chips

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The Chinese government is readying a program that will make it possible to track citizens’ cars using RFID chips, according to The Wall Street Journal. The program, which will be voluntary at first but mandatory for new vehicles starting in 2019, starts rolling out on July 1st.

The program is being put in place by China’s Ministry of Public Security, and the ministry’s Traffic Management Research Institute. By installing RFID chips on the windshields of new cars, and reading devices on the side of China’s roads, government officials reportedly hope to be able to study and improve congestion, therefore helping to reduce pollution — a major priority for China’s president Xi Jinping. They also hope to use it to help stem the rise of vehicular terrorist attacks, according to documents reviewed by the WSJ.

The system wouldn’t be able to locate a car at any given moment or location, like with GPS, and it’s unclear how much information the government plans to store on each chip beyond the color of the car and its license plate number. This is also not the first system of its kind. Mexico is working on implementing a similar system, and countries like India, South Africa, Brazil, and Dubai use RFID chips for everything from paying for gas, parking, and tolls to issuing tickets and collecting penalties.

But China’s system has a chance to be far larger than any of these due to the size of the country, its population, and in turn, the tens of millions of cars it sells on the new car market. Combine this with Xi’s penchant for surveillance, and there are inevitable security concerns. James Andrew Lewis, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thinks it’s likely that the RFID system will become another one of these tools that the government uses to monitor citizens.

“The Chinese government has gone all out to create a real surveillance state. [There’s] social credit, and facial recognition, and internet and telecom monitoring,” he tells The Verge. “It’s part of this larger effort to create total information awareness in China for the government.”

The RFID system would slot in alongside a number of surveillance programs that are already in place. For instance, China already recognizes and tracks license plates with security checkpoint cameras in some regions. Facial recognition is common, whether it’s being done by mounted cameras or with smart glasses. The government has been rolling out a so-called “social credit” system, where citizens are rated by their finances, criminal behavior, and other factors. It also blocks many internet-dependent services like apps and websites and surveils its citizens on the ones it controls. The government also forces shops to use government-approved routers and restricts free speech in a number of ways, like the recent move to ban video parodies.

The RFID system, Lewis says, is “just another step for this kind of overarching control. [Any] positive benefits are outweighed by the intrusiveness of the whole thing.”


Considering the advances in computer vision and how pervasive our public spaces are full of cameras, having RFID in cars seems almost a more efficient and transparent way to deal with things like, car registration, tolls, etc. My point is, even in the USA, your car is easily tracked by law enforcement in a similar way that a RFID chip can be tracked, due to cameras on the road and all road cars have to have license plates clearly displayed. Since RFID isn’t like a GPS tracker, its range is fairly limited, much like roadside cameras.

Is pedobear riding shotgun in that dude’s car?

This wins. I’m leaving this discussion. No further comments necessary.

That title though, this is just the first step.

It should read "China wants to track citizens’ cars with mandatory RFID chips"

That’s where they really want to go

Ever wonder how map services know how much traffic there are on each road?

I guess the author’s attitude on surveillance is ignorance is bliss,
Beijing’s effort at being transparent give people knowledge, and knowledge make you feel bad.
Just tell me what I want to hear, e.g. my Google Home isn’t making money off my personal conversations.

The difference between this and Google Maps is quite simple.

You’re free to use Google Maps or not. It’s your right to not be tracked by Google and you can ditch it and use a paper map anytime you want.

In China, you aren’t free to put a RFID chip on your car to be tracked by the government.

When combined to its social credit and its other surveillance initiatives, it’s actually scary.

"The government says it will help track congestion, but it’s likely to become another surveillance tool" So when the US does it (cars can be tracked already, but will become standard in the near future,), will the same statement get written? Anything to keep the anti-China narrative going.

China is at least 20 years behind US when it comes to citizen surveillance.

Most people are generally anti oppression. And don’t give me that U.S. is just as bad crap. This stuff shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere so save it.

I don’t think they understand the differences between the two countries. China is way more authoritarian.

a better way to tackle congestion – better public transport

How is this different from having an Android phone and using Waze?

China’s government is not like the US government. Giving that government this information is the problem. Notice the article mentions other countries also do this. Not as big of an issue though as it is when the country that does it also restricts free speech, access to information, and engages in widespread surveillance.

we’re living in a cyberpunk future

Some countries can already track cars approximate location using number plate reading cameras. In the UK it’s called ANPR, but I suspect others have versions of it too.

RFID has really shitty range last I check. I don’t see how this is going to work.

Actually rfid tags for vehicles can bring much convenience, for management, safety, and Automotive production line. saving much time and labor cost.

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