Data Leak Reveals China Tracking Millions In Xinjiang Where Uighurs Live


19 June 2019

Various Agencies

A Chinese surveillance firm is tracking the movements of more than 2.5 million people in the far-western Xinjiang region, according to a data leak flagged by a Dutch internet expert.

An online database containing names, ID card numbers, birth dates and location data was left unprotected for months by Shenzhen-based facial-recognition technology company SenseNets Technology Ltd, according to Victor Gevers, co-founder of non-profit organization GDI.Foundation, who first noted the vulnerability in a series of social media posts last week.

Exposed data also showed about 6.7 million location data points linked to the people which were gathered within 24 hours, tagged with descriptions such as "mosque," "hotel," "internet cafe" and other places where surveillance cameras were likely to be found.

"It was fully open and anyone without authentication had full administrative rights. You could go in the database and create, read, update and delete anything," said Gevers.

China has faced an outcry from activists, scholars, foreign governments and U.N. rights experts over what they call mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups who call Xinjiang home.

According to its website, SenseNets works with China's police across several cities. Its Shenzhen-listed parent company NetPosa Technologies Ltd has offices in a majority of Chinese provinces and regions, including Xinjiang.

SenseNets and NetPosa, as well as the Xinjiang regional government, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

The Chinese government has ramped up personal surveillance in Xinjiang over recent years, including the construction of an extensive video surveillance system and smartphone monitoring technology.

Gevers said the foundation directly alerted SenseNets to the vulnerability, in line with GDI.Foundation protocol. He said SenseNets did not respond, but that it has since taken steps to secure the database.

US biotech giant stops selling DNA sequencers to China for Uighur database

U. S. biotechnology manufacturer Thermo Fisher on Thursday announced it would stop selling to China equipment used to create a DNA database of the country's Uighur minority.

Since 2016, there have been regular reports of Chinese authorities taking blood samples in the Xinjiang region.

Xinjiang is home to most of China's Uighur ethnic minority and has been under heavy police surveillance in recent years after violent inter-ethnic tensions. Nearly one million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities in China have reportedly been held in re-education camps, according to a UN panel of experts.

According to The New York Times, Chinese officials presented the blood tests as part of a free health check-up program. Some 36 million people have participated, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua more than just the Uighur population.

In spring 2017, Human Rights Watch claimed China had ordered equipment to increase DNA sequencing capabilities -- which American scientific journal Nature then confirmed, naming Thermo Fisher as a supplier.

On Thursday, following a report in The New York Times which noted the "help of American expertise" in China's campaign of surveillance, said it would no longer sell its equipment in Xinjiang.

"As the world leader in serving science, we recognize the importance of considering how our products and services are used - or may be used - by our customers," a company spokesperson said to AFP.

Despite its low public profile, Thermo Fisher is a scientific equipment giant, with $24.3 billion in revenue last year. 

  EsinIslam.Com

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