China forces tourists to install an app that steals data

The Irkeshtam border is China’s most westerly border and is used by traders and tourists, some following the historic Silk Road.

The Irkeshtam border is China’s most westerly border and is used by traders and tourists, some following the historic Silk Road. Barcroft Media/Xinhua/Luo Yang

By David Reid | CNBC

ON THE WEB, 3 July 2019

Police in China are secretly installing spy apps on phones of visitors to the country that can extract emails, texts and address contacts, according to a cross-media investigation.

Evidence gathered by the New York Times, The Guardian in England and Suddeutsche Zeiting in Germany has claimed that travellers are being targeted when they enter the country’s Irkeshtam border crossing with Kyrgystan.

Border guards are seizing tourist phones and, without asking permission, installing surveillance software on the devices.

The app, said to be designed by a Chinese company, searches for phones based on the Android operating system and checks its content against topics and media that the Chinese government considers inappropriate.

The gathering of information in China’s Xinjiang region has been part of an effort by Beijing authorities to restrict and monitor activities of the local Muslim population, according to The Guardian report.

The report says such material ranges from terms associated with Islamist extremism and weapons operation manuals to apparently innocuous information such as fasting during Ramadan and music by a Japanese heavy metal group.


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