China data security announcement is strange, but there are stranger things

Data security
Image credit | TeroVesalainen/

The data security announcement from China – a call for global standards – which asks companies not to spy on other companies or Governments, sounds strange. The declaration fires a warning shot across the bows of the US campaign to create ‘clean networks’ and rid itself of Chinese technology, which is – apparently – sending Americans’ data straight back to Beijing.

As State Councillor Wang Li says, “Some individual countries are aggressively pursuing unilateralism, throwing dirty water on other countries under the pretext of ‘cleanliness’, and conducting global hunts on leading companies of other countries under the pretext of security. This is naked bullying and should be opposed and rejected.”

All of which is true.

What is also true is that every country on earth is busy trying to get the inside scoop on every other country and continues to do so. The difference with the latest purge by the US is that it has taken the fight from undercover Government operations to the targeting of highly visible corporations, who are caught in the middle.

And while China heads for the moral high ground (with a surprisingly good record on data security), it is business as unusual for the rest of the world.

The data security announcement changes nothing.

Spying is as old as the hills. It just got more sophisticated. As the MIT Download reports, you may or may not have heard of a company called Humanyze. If you haven’t and you work for a large company, it certainly knows about you.

The company produces devices “such as ID badges with embedded RFID tags, and built-in microphones that track in granular detail the tone and volume (though not the actual words) of people’s conversations throughout the day. Humanyze uses the data to create an “Organizational Health Score,” it promises is “a proven formula to accelerate change and drive improvement.”

Executives at Humanyze worry about being painted as Big Brother figures. They promote ‘corporate mindfulness’, apparently. You can stop laughing now.

If a company such as Humanyze was uncovered in a country that enjoyed less freedoms than Americans do, for example, can you imagine the outrage, anger and general ‘take to the streets and start burning stuff’ that would ensue? There would be articles about freedoms being breached, rights being abused and politicians would have a field day. Humanyse itself is only available in Japan outside of the US and the company is very firm that its ‘workplace analytics doesn’t track any individual data (only on the aggregate, team level), and does not measure nor record individual conversations’.

We have to accept, sadly, that we do not live in a world where data security is an actual ‘thing’. We have to accept that we are being watched and spied on a continual basis.

The whole issue is beginning to resemble an old favourite:

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