An investigation by the Guardian, the New York Times, and Süddeutsche Zeitung claims that Chinese border guards have been installing surveillance software on tourists’ smartphones without their knowledge.
Border guards are allegedly installing the app on the devices of those who attempt to enter China through neighbouring country Kyrgyzstan.
The app reportedly extracts the emails, texts, and contacts of the affected tourists, while also providing information about the actual smartphone.
According to the Guardian and its sources, the software searches the device against a large list of possible content which the Chinese government considers unacceptable – including terminology related to Islamic extremism and weapons operation manuals.
However, terminology that appears to be less threatening is also screened by the app, including references to Ramadan fasting and content penned by the Dalai Lama.
In most cases, the app is uninstalled before the tourist is given their phone back, but there have been cases where users have received their phones with the app still installed.