12:05 PM

Cisco Criticized For China Surveillance Project

Cisco Systems is helping the Chinese government build a massive surveillance system that will include more than 500,000 cameras. The Wall Street Journal reported that the "Peaceful Chongqing" project gets around US restrictions on US companies helping repressive foreign governments because it is billed as an "anti-crime" network.

TechEye reported that several other companies had bid for the project including Hewlett-Packard. But that the deal deserves scrutiny:

The biggest thorn in the side of sceptical public and politicos will be the seemingly two-faced nature of potential deals. As Nokia Siemens Network received rightful scrutiny for selling surveillance equipment to Iran used to hunt dissidents - now spun off into a company called Trovicor - shouldn't other companies selling equipment which could potentially be used in a similar way in China face similar criticism?

Or do the benefits of cut-throat capitalism outweigh any moral grey-areas? As companies adhere to and are bound by EU and US law, it certainly sends a mixed message to reach into the Chinese treasury for a quick buck.

One critic, Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, told TechEye:

While it's in the interests of Western companies to trade with China, actively assisting the regime in its efforts to control its citizens is nothing short of shameful. Beyond the stories of grandiose economic developments and promises of human rights reforms, China remains a fascist dictatorship in which pro-democracy activists are brutalised and freedom of speech is crushed.

Firms involved in selling surveillance equipment to vile dictatorships such as that in force in China should be ashamed of themselves.