Oracle Corporation, an American multinational computer technology behemoth headquartered in Austin, Texas, is facilitating repression in China, a report published on theintercept.com by Mara Hvistendahl has revealed. The explosive report shined a light on the grim details of how sophisticated software built by Oracle helped Chinese police in Liaoning province to make sense of surveillance data collected through invasive means: financial records, travel information, vehicle registrations, social media, and surveillance camera footage.
Slides from a 2018 presentation that is hosted on Oracle’s website, show that four products sold by the computing giant were used by the Liaoning police authorities to do “criminal analysis and prediction”. One of the slides demonstrated Oracle software facilitating police to create network graphs on hotel registrations and traced down anyone associated with a particular suspect. Another slide showed Oracle software helping police build “security case heat maps”.
The concluding slide stated that Oracle software products helped the police officials to make sense of seemingly incomprehensible datasets and provided them with key inputs that enabled their search for “key people/object/events” and “identify potential suspects” which according to the Chinese authorities are those who dissidents and critics that dare to express their opinions without any inhibitions.
As per loads of documents hosted on its website, Oracle representatives have marketed the company’s data analytics for use by police and security contractors across Mainland China. The documents suggested that at least in two instances, the provincial departments used the company software for their intrusive surveillance activities. In yet another document, Oracle legitimised the repressive practices of Shanxi province by describing the police as a “client” in a need of an intelligence platform.
The American software giant also boasted about providing data security services to other Chinese police entities, including the police in Xinjiang, the restive Chinese province where a cultural genocide is being waged against the Uyghur Muslim minorities and other marginalised ethnic groups.
The documents accessed by journalist Mara revealed that Oracle has not only pitched their software and rendered their services to the Chinese police entities but they have also approached other organisations in the country, in their bid to sell their data analytics softwares. Oracle has reportedly made presentations to woo People’s Liberation Army, China National Nuclear Corporation, and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and enlist them for their services. However, it is unclear whether the aforementioned Chinese organisations have entered into agreements with the computing leviathan.
The trove of the documents, however, reveal that the American organisation has only paid lip-service to its professed principles and have sacrificed its values in lieu of the sale of its sophisticated softwares. Oracle’s presentations detailing its fraternising with the Chinese police entities and its overtures to the Chinese security establishment pose serious questions, given that Oracle is an important constituent of the US security apparatus and is in association with all the 5 branches of the US military.
Oracle was to lead TikTok’s US operations to prevent data from being passed to Chinese authorities
Significantly, Oracle’s close association with the government also helped it secure a deal to control the US operations for the Chinese social media company TikTok, which came under the scanner of the Trump administration for its accompanying privacy concerns. The US government had ordered TikTok to find a US buyer for its American operations. The proposed plan, which is under legal scrutiny in the court of law, was fuelled by concerns that the Beijing-based parent company of TikTok might pass on sensitive user data of Americans to the Chinese authorities.
However, in a strange turn of events, the documents betray that far from safeguarding US interests, Oracle has been marketing and selling its software to the very same authorities whom the US government suspected of seeking data from the Chinese parent company of TikTok. In its bid for TikTok, Oracle was supposed to prevent TikTok from sharing the data of American users to their Chinese bosses. Instead, the documents divulge that Oracle was chomping at the bit of selling its data analytic software to the Chinese entities. The revelation is a vivid example of how an organisation, in its relentless pursuit of making profits, has brushed aside the human rights concerns.
Besides human rights concerns, Oracle’s proposals to Chinese security organisations underscore profound national security implications. In one of the presentations that Oracle has reportedly presented to its prospective Chinese customers, the organisation has cited its US military’s work, in an attempt to win Chinese cloud computing contracts.
Oracle denies selling its data analytics softwares to Chinese police and military entities
Following the revelations, The Intercept got in touch with Oracle spokesperson Jessica Moore who rubbished her company’s involvement with a repressive Chinese regime. She asserted that the materials demonstrated in the presentations provided an insight into what products built by Oracle are capable of and dismissed them as simply “aspirational business development ideas” that “do not indicate any targeted or intended sales/support execution.” She further added that the company is not selling its analytics product for reasons implied in the presentations and insisted that such activities would not jibe with Oracle’s core Corporate Citizenship Values, including our Human Rights statement.
Moore further elaborated that her organisation carries out extensive due diligence to ensure that its exports abide by the trade restrictions, including agreements with the Chinese military. When asked about Oracle’s bid to military-linked entities, she said, “Any such transactions would have to be in full compliance with U.S. and applicable export control and economic sanctions laws and regulations. Period. And beyond our legal and regulatory obligations, Oracle is very conservative and cautious in how we even approach such opportunities.”
Leaked Chinese Police data reveals law enforcement officials using sophisticated tools and technology to repress its citizens
It is pertinent to note that Chinese police have been using new-age technology and complex software to keep a tab on the citizens. Earlier this month, leaked Chinese Police data brought to fore the extent to which the Chinese authorities went to subjugate ethnic minorities, especially Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. The report on the Chinese police data leak demonstrated how futuristic technology and sophisticated software are increasingly used by the authorities to snoop on the citizens that are deemed exhibiting suspicious behaviour.
The database threw light on the lengths that China goes in not only scrutinising the minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang but also their relatives and friends, along with those who are living abroad. Artificial Intelligence, sophisticated surveillance systems, new-age technology and human intelligence are all employed by the Chinese Communist Party to track and monitor the Uyghur Muslims and those associated with them.
Be it surveillance through popular messaging app WeChat or using invasive “anti-terrorism sword” tool at the checkpoints in Xinjiang’s Urumqi, or availing the services of facial recognition software, the Chinese officials have displayed no moral restraints in undertaking invasive surveillance activities. The database brings to light a systematic campaign of repression that involves cameras placed in the homes of private citizens, the development of internment camps for housing the “extremists”, children being forcibly separated from their families and sent to preschools with electric fences, the organised destruction of Uyghur cemeteries, a structured plan to suppress Uyghur births, forced abortion, sterilisation, and birth control.