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Chinese kids are being tracked and monitored by ‘smart uniforms’

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China uniformChildren wearing uniforms wait to enter their classroom on January 21, 2015 at the Beichuan Red army elementary school.FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

  • Schools in China are clothing students in “smart uniforms” embedded with GPS trackers to allow parents and teachers to confirm their whereabouts and behavior in real time.
  • When a child enters the school, classroom or dormitory a short video confirms a GPS recording of the time and date.
  • “It is hard to parent a teenager, and I need all the help I can get,” one parent told the state-run China Daily

Schools in Guizhou province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region are using “smart uniforms” embedded with GPS trackers to make sure students do not skip class, and to assure parents of their children’s attendance and safety, The China Daily reported this week.

Nine schools in Guizhou and two in Guangxi have introduced the tracking uniforms.

Guangxi is particular is a poorer province in China and faces higher rates of truancy.

Chip developers, Guizhou Guanyu Technology said in a statement that the time and date are recorded after students who are wearing the high-tech uniforms enter the school. The students’ movements at that point are also capture on video, which parents can view on a connected mobile app.

Facial-recognition technology is designed to prevent children from improperly swapping uniforms.

For the willing truants, skipping classes triggers an alarm that notifies teachers and parents. If a student walked off the school grounds without permission, a voice alarm is activated.

China is a world leader in applying and developing technology for surveillance.

The Communist Party has been increasing surveillance efforts in the Xinjiang region as part of an ongoing crackdown on the Uighur Muslim population.

And even in the big cities, most of the wealthy electric-car drivers aren’t even aware that their vehicle could be collecting data and sending it back to”government-backed monitoring centers.”

Wang Ping, head of the labor union at Xiuwen High School in Guizhou, told state media that almost 1,000 first-graders have been wearing the tech-laden uniforms for over a month.

Students have two summer uniforms and two for winter, each reportedly costs 320 yuan ($47) in total — about the same price as common uniforms, China Daily reports.

Xiuwen High School parent Zhao Shengyong said he is happy with the uniform’s monitoring function.

“The school is a boarding school, so it is hard for me to parent my son at home. This uniform can put some pressure on him and let him know that I will be notified if he skips classes,” he told China Daily.

“It is hard to parent a teenager, and I need all the help I can get.”

A spokesman told China Daily that, aside from developing the technology, the company is committed to protecting privacy and only parents and teachers can access the information gathered.

Reporting on the smart uniforms have been doing the rounds on state media, reflecting the Communist Party’s willingness to openly discuss, encourage, and normalize individual surveillance.

Under the growing authority of China’s President Xi Jinping, the Communist-run state is quickly becoming a digital autocracy, with vast networks of surveillance intersecting with draconian means of control.

In November, China rolled out surveillance software in Beijing and Shanghai which authorities say can identify people from their walking style, even with their backs turned and faces hidden.

The growth of China’s surveillance technology comes as the state rolls out anambitious “social credit system” threatening to rank citizens through conformity and behavior, rewarding and punishing people in various ways, depending on their accumulative scores.

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