US Olympic Athletes Urged to Leave Phones Behind Amid Chinese Surveillance Concerns

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US Olympic Athletes Urged to Leave Phones Behind Amid Chinese Surveillance Concerns
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Photo: China News Service (Getty Images)

American Olympic athletes heading to Beijing for this year’s 2022 Winter Olympics are being advised to pack a disposable burner phone and get familiar with virtual private networks to avoid potential Chinese government surveillance.

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That guidance, sent out by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee in a September advisory document and subsequent December bulletin, reportedly warns athletes that all of their communications, transactions, and online activity could be subject to state monitoring while competing in China. The documents, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, also reportedly warned athletes their devices could be targeted with malicious malware or spyware.

“Despite any and all safeguards that are put in place to protect the systems and data that are brought to China, it should be assumed that all data and communications in China can be monitored, compromised or blocked,” the bulletin said according to USA Today. If athletes do decide to take their own devices, the advisory recommends they at least wipe the devices of any personal data beforehand

The U.S. isn’t alone in this. In recent days the Olympic associations for Australia, Britain, and the Netherlands have all issued similar cybersecurity warnings to their athletes, with the latter two claiming they would offer competitors temporary burner devices.

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