Team USA warns Olympic athletes of concern over Chinese surveillance at Beijing Games

In an effort to thwart potential Chinese surveillance, Team USA and several other national Olympic squads are advising athletes to leave personal mobile devices at home instead of “burning” phones during the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

“Like computers, data and applications on mobile phones are subject to malicious intrusion, infection and data corruption,” explains a technology bulletin distributed by Team USA.

The advice suggests athletes, coaches and trainers use rental or disposable electronic devices while in Beijing, or at the very least erase all personal data before and during the trip. Virtual private networks, which can reduce risks to users, are also recommended.

“Despite all precautions taken to protect the systems and data brought into China, it should be assumed that all data and communications in China can be monitored, compromised or blocked,” the bulletin reads.

A woman takes pictures with her mobile phone of a figure skating sculpture created for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in the Shougang Industrial Park, which will be used as a venue for sports and other events during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

A woman takes pictures with her mobile phone of a figure skating sculpture created for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in the Shougang Industrial Park, which will be used as a venue for sports and other events during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

Mia Kilburg-Manganello competes in the Women's Mass Start event during the 2022 US Speedskating Long Track Olympic Trials at Pettit National Ice Center on January 9

Mia Kilburg-Manganello competes in the Women's Mass Start event during the 2022 US Speedskating Long Track Olympic Trials at Pettit National Ice Center on January 9

Mia Kilburg-Manganello competes in the Women’s Mass Start event during the 2022 US Speedskating Long Track Olympic Trials at Pettit National Ice Center on January 9

Jon Mason, a spokesperson for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said: USA today that the organization has worked with the individual national governing bodies for each sport to determine the best strategy for the Winter Games, which begin on February 4.

Game organizers are fighting the perception that athletes’ data is unsafe in Beijing. But rather than promise not to collect any personal information, the committee simply said the information would not be misused.

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection of personal information,” said a statement from the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee.

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

Anna Hoffman of the United States and Logan Sankey of the United States wave to a camera after finishing first and second in the ski jumping competition at the U.S. Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials on December 25, 2021 in Lake Placid, New York

Anna Hoffman of the United States and Logan Sankey of the United States wave to a camera after finishing first and second in the ski jumping competition at the U.S. Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials on December 25, 2021 in Lake Placid, New York

Anna Hoffman of the United States and Logan Sankey of the United States wave to a camera after finishing first and second in the ski jumping competition at the U.S. Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials on December 25, 2021 in Lake Placid, New York

People take selfies in front of an installation of Bing Dwen Dwen, the mascot of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the Paralympic Winter Games in Beichen Road on January 12.

People take selfies in front of an installation of Bing Dwen Dwen, the mascot of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the Paralympic Winter Games in Beichen Road on January 12.

People take selfies in front of an installation of Bing Dwen Dwen, the mascot of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the Paralympic Winter Games in Beichen Road on January 12.

Despite the organizing committee’s attempt to allay the fears, other national Olympic teams are advising athletes to leave their personal phones at home.

For example, the Dutch authorities came straight forward and said they were “anticipating Chinese surveillance during the Games.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Olympic Committee was more diplomatic in its warning to athletes, saying the Beijing Games “present a unique opportunity for cybercrime.”

‘[It is] recommended that [athletes] be extra diligent at Games, including considering leaving personal devices at home, limiting personal information stored on devices brought to the Games, and practicing good cyber hygiene at all times.”

Spokespersons for the Australian and British Olympic Committees told USA Today they have issued similar warnings.

Although the warnings are new to athletes, they are commonplace in the US State Department.

“Hotel rooms (including conference rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage, digital payments and fax machines may be monitored locally or remotely, and personal belongings in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge,” it reads. an advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Taylor Fletcher and Jared Schumate, both from the United States, ski the 10km skate section of the Nordic Combined competition during the US Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials

Taylor Fletcher and Jared Schumate, both from the United States, ski the 10km skate section of the Nordic Combined competition during the US Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials

Taylor Fletcher and Jared Schumate, both from the United States, ski the 10km skate section of the Nordic Combined competition during the US Nordic Combined & Ski Jump Olympic Trials

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