Tag: Monitoring

China: Tourist mobile phones are scanned by an app

8. July 2019

Foreign tourists who want to enter the Chinese province of Xinjiang by land are spied out via an app.
For the first time, employees of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Motherboard Vice and various other media portals in cooperation with IT-experts of the Ruhr University Bochum have succeeded in decrypting a Chinese surveillance software that also targets foreigners.

It has been known for some time that the Chinese authorities use apps to monitor the Uighur residents of Xinjiang province (we reported). What is new is that foreign tourists and businessmen coming from Kyrgyzstan to Xinjiang by land have to hand in their mobile phones at the borders and then get the Android app “Fengcai” (“collecting bees”) installed. They are not explicitly informed about this.

The app gets access to the contacts, the calendar, the SMS, the location or the call lists and transmits them to a computer of the border police. In addition, the app scans the phone for over 70,000  files that are suspicious from Chineses government’s point of view. Many scanned files refer to extremist content related to the Islamic state, but also harmless religious content or files related to Taiwan, Tibet or the Dalai Lama are part of the list. If the app discovers anything, it emits a warning tone and thereby informs the border police.

The app also scans the phones to see which apps were installed by the user and even extract usernames but several antivirus firms already updated their products to identify the app as malware.

Neither the Chinese authorities nor the company that developed the app reacted to a request for comment.

Category: General · Personal Data
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Mass monitoring in Xinjiang

3. May 2019

According to research by Human Rights Watch, China’s state and party leaders have had an app developed with which the security authorities in Xinjiang can monitor their inhabitants on a massive scale.

When police officers log into the app, they can see which “conspicuous” behaviours of individual residents have been recorded. According to the published report, the authorities are using the app for illegal mass surveillance and arbitrary arrest of the Uighur Muslim minority living in Xinjiang Province. Up to one million Uighurs are currently said to be imprisoned in “re-education camps”.

Users of the app are asked to enter a variety of information about citizens and explain the circumstances under which it was collected. This includes information such as name or identity card number, but also information such as religious beliefs, blood group or the absence of smartphones. According to Human Rights Watch, the app should also be connected to other databases and alert users if a citizen consumes too much electricity or a mobile phone does not log on to the network for a long time. Citizens should also make themselves “suspicious” if they have little contact with neighbours or do not often enter buildings through the front door.

Human Rights Watch is convinced that this procedure is also illegal in China and that the collected data must be deleted. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese – or other governments will react to the disclosures.

Category: General · Personal Data
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