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Cameras made by a company with ties to China were removed from a base in the U.S.

A domestic military base in the Missouri Ozarks has been under surveillance. The cameras used at Fort Leonard Wood have direct ties to the government of China and may, in fact, be a way for the Chinese to spy on the United States military operations. The company that made the cameras, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, is 42% owned by the Chinese government.

For whatever reason the idea that the cameras being bought and installed on the United States military bases having direct ties to a foreign government was not enough to keep them from being installed. Concerns about the company and the fact that the camera could be used to spy for the Chinese has been made public via many news stories. The Army finally took notice and ripped out the cameras over cybersecurity concerns.

The issue about the cameras first became public back in November of 2017. At the time many news reports emerged about the link between the company and the Chinese government. The Hikvision technology was created as a way to track the movements of the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens. Officials in China use a massive network of cameras as a part of their domestic-surveillance program. The fact that they use the product for this function made Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology the world’s largest surveillance camera manufacturer.

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As scary as it is to know that these cameras are widely used to spy on the average Chinese citizen, it is even more unnerving to see that they are also commonly used in many parts of the United States. According to a recent report about the cameras:

“The Memphis police use the surveillance cameras to scan the streets for crime. The U.S. Army uses them to monitor a base in Missouri. Consumer models hang in homes and businesses across the country. At one point, the cameras kept watch on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.”

Press dating back to November made mention of the issue with the cameras being used by the United States military, raising concerns about the manufacture being tied to the Chinese government. It does not seem too far outside of reality to fear that the cameras could be used for things other than their initial purchase. While officials at Fort Leonard Wood bought the cameras to monitor parking lots on base, it is possible they could be accessed by the Chinese.

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Col. Christopher Beck is the base’s chief of staff for Fort Leonard Wood. He was in charge of addressing the possible security risk and also addressing the media after the cameras were taken down. Even after the cameras came down, Col. Beck downplayed the overall threat by saying “…we never believed [the cameras] were a security risk. They were always on a closed network.” He went on to explain that the cameras were taken down to “remove any negative perception.”

One has to wonder if the negative perception is the real reason the cameras were removed or if there was something to the cybersecurity issue. It is entirely possible that the cameras were outfitted with the capacity to send singles back to China. It is also possible that the purchase of the cameras was made before anyone knew the Chinese government primarily controlled the company.

The idea that China is watching in unnerving for most Americans. Oddly enough, in China the thought of big brother watching in not something out of the ordinary. It is common knowledge that much of their daily activity is being observed and they seem okay with that.

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To take surveillance one step further in China, many of the internet users in the country use the network of live cameras as entertainment. While the 751 million internet users in China are not allowed to watch videos on Youtube, they can access real-time video feeds from all over their country.

Watching live feeds has become a favorite hobby for many in China. It has become their version of reality television and has even been turned into a popular movie. Director Xu Bing shifted through 1700 hours of recordings to create a love story that entertained filmgoers all over China.

The movie is called “Dragonfly Eyes.” While it is something the Chinese seemed to enjoy, it a scary snapshot into what happens when the government watches a little too close. It is also alarming to realize we could have given the state of China that level of access to places like a military base in Missouri.