Chinese authorities in the province of Xinjiang are forcing locals of the Uyghur Muslim minority to install an app on their phones that will allow the government to scan their device for "terrorist propaganda," local media reports.
In reality, the app creates MD5 hashes for the user's files and matches them against a database of known terrorist content.
The app also makes copies of the user's Weibo and WeChat databases and uploads it to a government server, along with the user's IMEI, IMSI, and WiFi login information.
The app is called Jingwang (Citizen Safety) and was developed by police forces from Ürümqi, Xinjiang's capital. Authorities launched the app in April, and also included the ability to report suspicious activity to the police.
At the start of July, Xinjiang officials started sending WeChat messages in Uyghur and Chinese to locals, asking them to install the app or face detainment of up to 10 days.
Police have also stopped people on the street to check if they installed the app. Several were detained for refusing to install it. Locals are now sharing the locations of checkpoints online, so others can avoid getting arrested.
新疆各部手机检查安装净网卫士官方软件，短信通知十日内安装，临检发现没安装拘留十天，科技倒退，逼老百姓用老年机，什么叫禁锢，这种全面监控就是禁锢。回到长毛时代 pic.twitter.com/zUnLXc9tFA— 即时中国大陆映像 (@o66071443) July 18, 2017
The measure is not in place for other Chinese provinces, but only in Xinjiang, where the Uyghur population is a majority. There have been demonstrations and unrest in the region, with the locals protesting against decades of oppression and suspicious killings at the hands of Chinese officials.
ISIS also has a small presence in the area, and the Chinese government answered by banning the wear of classical Islam attire, such as the burqa.
The conflict between Chinese authorities and the Uyghur population has sparked cyber-activism in the past [1, 2, 3]. Reports have also surfaced of Chinese cyber-espionage groups targeting local opposition with malware [1, 2].
According to a Chinese journalist reporting for Mashable, last year Xinjiang authorities have started cutting the phone service to members of the Uyghur population who used foreign messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram, or if they used VPNs.