US team warns athletes against Chinese phone surveillance at Olympics, encourages ‘burner phones’: report

Team USA is preparing to send its athletes to the Beijing Olympics with the games just weeks away, but the trip would come with a dire warning: keep your personal phones at home.

The U.S. Olympic team has warned athletes traveling to Beijing to beware of potential Chinese government digital surveillance overseas, USA Today reported Thursday.

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A woman wearing a face mask to protect against COVID-19 sits near landscaping decorated with the logos of the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics on a shopping pedestrian street in Beijing, Saturday, January 15, 2022.

A woman wearing a face mask to protect against COVID-19 sits near landscaping decorated with the logos of the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics on a shopping pedestrian street in Beijing, Saturday, January 15, 2022.
(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

“Like computers, data and applications on cellphones are subject to malicious intrusion, infection, and data compromise,” the Team USA advisory reportedly said, adding that “burning phones” were “encouraged “.

The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee told the newspaper that China takes the importance of personal data protection seriously.

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Student activists wear masks with the colors of the East Turkestan pro-independence flag during a rally to protest the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in front of the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Student activists wear masks with the colors of the East Turkestan pro-independence flag during a rally to protest the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in front of the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.
(AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

“Personal information collected by Beijing 2022 will not be disclosed unless disclosure is necessary,” the committee said. “Information from accredited media representatives will only be used for purposes related to the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.”

The US team was not the only country warned of possible Chinese surveillance.

Canadian athletes have also been warned.

Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge told The Canadian Press that protecting laptops and cell phones is a priority.

The Dutch Olympic Committee said it “anticipates Chinese surveillance during the games”.

Olympic rings assembled atop a tower stand near a ski resort on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

Olympic rings assembled atop a tower stand near a ski resort on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

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The Olympics are due to start on February 4.

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