A reader of one of Shanghai’s most widely read local newspapers, the Xinming Evening News1 wrote in to complain (12 September 2004) about what he considered to be an infringement of his family’s privacy by over-zealous security guards employed in his gated neighbourhood. According to the writer, a Mr Wang, the security guards at his new commercial housing estate keep a close watch on the people and vehicles entering and leaving the housing compounds, a standard practice in many commodity housing estates in Shanghai. Even though such security measures were initially welcomed by Wang, he had been rather perturbed lately when some of the security guards started to ‘update’ him on the daily movements of his family members. For example, on his way out of the main gate one morning, a security guard on duty casually mentioned to Wang that his wife had just gone to the nearby shopping mall and that his daughter had just left for school an hour ago. While such ‘friendly surveillance’ meant no malice and may even attest to the vigilance and ‘professionalism’ of the security guards, for Wang, it posed an uncomfortable threat to his sense of privacy (yinsi).