Why it matters: China's penchant for surveillance and monitoring has often come across as dystopian to foreigners, but these individuals usually rest assured that the country's spying methods aren't directly affecting them. Unfortunately, though, that may no longer be the case for some tourists. A recent report claims China's border police are "secretly" installing surveillance apps on the phones of visitors to the country's Xinjiang region (a predominantly Muslim area).
The report, which comes from The Guardian, claims that most visitors were not warned ahead of time that their phones would have this app installed, nor were they told what sort of spying the software would be doing.
The Guardian, however (working alongside The New York Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung), found that the app searches texts, emails, and contact information for a variety of religious material. For example, the outlet says the app scans for "terms associated with Islamist extremism," in addition to more innocuous religious information, like Ramadan fasting practices.
That's far from a comprehensive list of the content the app looks for, but it should give you a general idea. This app is apparently only being installed on the phones of users who enter Xinjiang from China's Kyrgyzstan region. It's unclear why this practice is only being performed at that specific border checkpoint, but visitors -- though not happy about it -- don't seem surprised that it's occurring.
"I don't like it. If they were doing it in my home country I would be aghast," one traveler told The Guardian. "but when you are travelling to China you know it might be like this."
The only phones The Guardian and its investigative allies were able to confirm the app was installed on happened to be Android devices. Still, the outlet says "iPhones were also taken by officers," and presumably fitted with similar software.
Image credit: Security Camera and Urban Video by Pixinoo