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Chinese government to track users of free WiFi, small businesses react with service cutoffs

Joseph Volpe, @jrvolpe
July 26, 2011
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Thought Google had a mountain-sized stack of your up close and personal online habits? Think again, because the omnipresent search king's all-seeing eyes are nothing compared to the Chinese government, which recently enacted stricter regulations to identify free WiFi users. The government-issued monitoring software will cost the cafes and restaurants it targets $3,100, putting small business owners in a sticky situation -- pay up, or shut down the free surfing. An informal survey conducted by the New York Times found not one owner willing to bow to the Republic's pressure, citing the out-of-pocket cost and low number of actual users. It's possible the move to clamp down on anonymous browsing was spurred by recent youth-embraced, social networking-backed uprisings, like the one in Cairo earlier this year. Seems a loophole in China's net management policy allows "laptop- and iPad-owning colleges students and expatriates" -- the very same group behind recent revolts -- to go online undetected. It remains to be seen if the Communist Party will make this new measure widespread, or just restrict it to central Beijing. For their sake, we echo one owner's hope that "official fervor [will]... soon die down."

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