'Software extracts emails, texts and contacts and could be used to track movements'
'Chinese border police are secretly installing surveillance apps on the phones of visitors and downloading personal information as part of the government’s intensive scrutiny of the remote Xinjiang region, the Guardian can reveal.
The Chinese government has curbed freedoms in the province for the local Muslim population, installing facial recognition cameras on streets and in mosques and reportedly forcing residents to download software that searches their phones.
An investigation by the Guardian and international partners has found that travellers are being targeted when they attempt to enter the region from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.
Border guards are taking their phones and secretly installing an app that extracts emails, texts and contacts, as well as information about the handset itself.
Tourists say they have not been warned by authorities in advance or told about what the software is looking for, or that their information is being taken.
The investigation, with partners including Süddeutsche Zeitung and the New York Times, has found that people using the remote Irkeshtam border crossing into the country are routinely having their phones screened by guards.
Edin Omanović, of the campaign group Privacy International, described the findings as “highly alarming in a country where downloading the wrong app or news article could land you in a detention camp”.
Analysis by the Guardian, academics and cybersecurity experts suggests the app, designed by a Chinese company,searches Android phones against a huge list of content that the authorities view as problematic.
This includes a variety of terms associated with Islamist extremism, including Inspire, the English-language magazine produced by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and various weapons operation manuals'
Read more: Chinese border guards put secret surveillance app on tourists' phones