Beijing security worse than even I imagined

It didn’t take long after the arrival of the first athletes to Forbidden City for Western news outlets to realize what they’d stepped into. From WSJ, a property of NewsCorp*:

 Tens of thousands of taxi drivers in Beijing have a tool that could become part of China’s all-out security campaign for the Olympic Games. Their vehicles have microphones — installed ostensibly for driver safety — that can be used to listen to passengers remotely.

The tiny listening devices, which are connected to a global positioning system able to track a cab’s location by satellite, have been installed in almost all of the city’s 70,000 taxis over the past three years, taxi drivers and industry officials say.

[The] devices in Beijing taxis can be remotely activated without the driver’s knowledge to eavesdrop on passengers, according to drivers and Yaxon Networks Co., a Chinese company that makes some of the systems used in Beijing. The machines can even remotely shut off engines.

Whether these microphones are used to spy on riders is unclear. Asked if police could listen in on conversations in taxis, a Beijing police official declined to comment, saying that such matters were “confidential” and that they were “not supposed to release such details to the public.”

The U.S. State Department has warned visitors to the Olympics that no place is safe from eavesdropping.

*I was amused that an advertisement for The Sun popped up as the first advertisement on NewsCorp’s site, as if they’re actually proud of it.

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