Beijing Businesses Ordered to Buy $3,100 Wifi Surveillance Software

Cafés, restaurants and other providers of public wifi in central Beijing are being required by police to purchase $3,100 network monitoring software. Many business owners are choosing to shut down their networks instead, either for financial or political reasons. From The New York Times:

“From the point of view of the common people, this policy is unfair,” said Wang Bo, the owner of L’Infusion, a cafe that features crepes, waffles and the companionship of several dozing cats. “It’s just an effort to control the flow of information ….”

The new measures, it would appear, are designed to eliminate a loophole in “Internet management” as it is called, one that has allowed laptop- and iPad-owning college students and expatriates, as well as the hip and the underemployed, to while away their days at cafes and lounges surfing the Web in relative anonymity. It is this demographic that has been at the forefront of the microblogging juggernaut, one that has revolutionized how Chinese exchange information in ways that occasionally frighten officials ….

One bookstore owner said she had already disconnected the shop’s free Wi-Fi, and not for monetary reasons. “I refuse to be part of an Orwellian surveillance system that forces my customers to disclose their identity to a government that wants to monitor how they use the Internet,” said the woman, who feared that disclosing her name or that of her shop would bring unwanted attention from the authorities.

China Daily noted that the new requirement, which is similar to existing rules for Internet cafés, is to spread nationwide:

A report in Beijing News said the public security department revealed that the regulation has been introduced in the capital and will be applied across the country.

Cafe owners contacted by China Daily reporters in Shanghai, and in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said they had been notified of the new measure.