China Requires Expensive Monitoring Software at Public Establishments

By Ed Silverstein July 28, 2011

A new requirement by Chinese authorities – that public places offering Wi-Fi web access install high-priced software to identify people using the service – is leading to some angry responses.

The AFP reported that the software costs between $3,100 and $9,300 to install, according to the China Business News.

“It's a requirement of the public security organs. Why should we pay the fees?” Yang Xiaowen, manager of UBC Coffee in Beijing, told the China Daily.

It appears many establishments will no longer provide Internet service rather than pay for the software. “For a reason that everyone is aware of, we are temporarily stopping our Wi-Fi service,” Beijing’s Kubrick bookstore said, China Business News reported.

China Business News also told a story from China Daily about Ye Jia, a cafe owner in Wudaoying Hutong. Authorities asked her brother to install the software during a meeting on July 22.

“All small businesses with Wi-Fi in our area attended that meeting,” she told China Daily. “But I won’t use the software, because I can’t afford the costly fees… If the restriction on the wireless service is put into effect, my cafe will be affected and I won’t be able to keep offering this service.”

In addition, a 40-year-old customer who uses the Internet in the “Sculpting in Time” cafe in the Chaoyang district said the requirement violates her privacy, according to China Business News. “I don’t want to be watched. It will make me uncomfortable,” she said.

The high price for the software has led to many public places – such as bars, restaurants, cafes and bookstores – to no longer provide public wireless Internet.

Authorities said they will fine Beijing cafe and restaurant owners if they fail to install the software and still offer the wireless Internet to the public. The fine is about $2,300 dollars and responsible business owners may also get their licenses revoked, according to a report from TechZone360.

Cafe owners in Shanghai and in Hangzhou said they were told about the new requirement.

The requirement is going to be applied across China. The software will show police all of the websites visited by an online user. In China, the government censors content it finds objectionable.

China has some 485 million Internet users.

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Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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