A green tea, a laptop … and someone monitoring you. Photo: Colleen Kinder/New York Times
BEIJING: New regulations that require bars, restaurants, hotels and bookstores to install costly web-monitoring software are prompting many businesses to cut internet access and sending a chill through the capital’s game-playing, web-grazing literati who have come to expect free wi-fi with their lattes and green tea.
The software, which costs businesses about $US3100 ($2840), provides public security officials the identities of those logging onto the wireless service of a restaurant, cafe or private school and monitors their web activity.
Those who ignore the regulation and provide unfettered access face a $US2300 fine and the possible revocation of their business license.
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”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.”
It is unclear whether the new measures will be strictly enforced or applied beyond the swathe of central Beijing where they are already in effect. But they suggest that public security officials, unnerved by turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa partly enabled by the internet, are undaunted in their efforts to ramp up controls.
At public cybercafes, which is where China’s working poor have access to the internet, customers must hand over state-issued identification before getting on a computer.
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 revolutionised how Chinese exchange information in ways that occasionally frighten officials.
The Dongcheng Public Security Bureau did not respond to requests for comment, but according to its publicly-issued circular, the measure is designed to thwart criminals who use the internet to ”conduct blackmail, traffic goods, gamble, propagate damaging information and spread computer viruses”.
During a survey of more than a dozen businesses, none said they were prepared to purchase the software, which is designed to handle 100 users at one time.
via Officials in China to monitor public wi-fi use.