The Strategist

FT: Chinese authorities monitor citizens' visits to foreign financial news sites

09/15/2021 - 06:49

Chinese police are using a new anti-fraud app to identify and vet people who have visited foreign financial news sites. The Financial Times reported this, citing people who have been summoned by Chinese authorities to testify in this regard.
The app was launched in March by the National Anti-Fraud Center, part of China's Ministry of Public Security. It blocks suspicious calls and reports malware. The ministry recommended that Chinese users install the app to combat the growing number of scams. However, local authorities have required their officials and certain categories of citizens to install the app, and it has now been downloaded more than 200 million times. And when it is installed, it asks for 29 permissions, including permission to track calls, text messages and conversations.

A Shanghai resident told the Financial Times that he was contacted by police to inquire about his visit to the U.S. financial news site. He was also asked about his overseas connections and how regularly he visited foreign sites. Another Chinese user said police was calling him for four days after the app showed he had visited "extremely dangerous" sites, including the Bloomberg page. In addition, according to the FT, many users have complained that they could not, for example, rent an apartment or enroll their children in school without first downloading the app, and some were refused issuing documents until they download the app.

At the same time, police believe that the app is very effective in the fight against fraud. In the first three months, according to the police, it made 23 million notifications about suspicious activities of users.