XINJIANG, CHINA — An investigative report by the New York Times, the Guardian, Motherboard, Süddeutsche Zeitung and German public broadcaster NDR has uncovered a systematic program to harvest data from the phones of tourists entering Xinjiang.
Tourists entering Xinjiang by land from Kyrgyzstan are forced to unlock their phones at border checkpoints and give their pin codes to border officials, according to a report in the Guardian.
The phones are taken away by Chinese authorities to a separate room. iPhones are plugged into a reader that scans them while Android phones have a spyware app called "fengcai" installed on them.
The malware downloads emails, text messages, phone contacts, calls logs and scans the device for more than 73,000 different items, including images and videos related to Islamic terrorism or the Quran.
In most cases the Android app is uninstalled by authorities before the phone is returned to the tourist. However, some tourists have still found the app installed on their phones.