Border guards at a Chinese patrol station with neighboring Kyrgyzstan are secretly installing software on the phones of those who enter China from the majority Islamic country in order to monitor their communications.

“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,” according to The Guardian. “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.”

China is cracking down, apparently taking preventative action to protect itself against what it views as a potentially dangerous religion.

The report said:

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-Qaidain the Arabian Peninsula, and various weapons operation manuals.

However, the surveillance app also searches for information on a range of other material – from fasting during Ramadan to literature by the Dalai Lama, and music by a Japanese metal band called Unholy Grave.

Another file on the list is a self-help manual by the American writer Robert Greene called The 33 Strategies of War.

There are several stages to crossing, and at one travellers are made to unlock and hand over their phones and other devices such as cameras. The devices are then taken away to a separate room and returned some time later.

The iPhones are plugged into a reader that scans them, while Android phones have the app installed to do the same job.

This development comes shortly after the revelation that Chinese authorities are using facial recognition software in cameras on the streets, and outside Mosques in order to monitor for Islamic extremists or extremist behavior in the western Xinjiang province, where Islam has its largest concentration in the country.

It appears that the country is using the new application and the facial recognition software together to put together profiles of “untrustworthy” people.

“The app is connected with the integrated joint operations platform (IJOP), a Xinjiang policing program that aggregates people’s data and flags those deemed potentially threatening,” said another Guardian report.

“IJOP is part of a vast surveillance network currently employed in the restive region that includes frequent checkpoints equipped with face scanners, so-called “convenience” police stations, and surveillance cameras inside homes.”

Laura Loomer