China Alerts on Foreign Mapping Firms Using Crypto Rewards for Sensitive Data Collection

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China’s Ministry of State Security is issuing a warning about foreign mapping companies using cryptocurrency rewards to encourage unauthorized collection of sensitive geographic data in China, which poses a threat to national security.

China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) issued a warning on February 20, 2024 about certain foreign mapping companies engaging in activities that potentially compromise national security. According to Zaobaothese companies incentivize individuals in China to collect sensitive geographic data through the use of specialized equipment and map “checking” activities, in exchange for cryptocurrency rewards. This practice results in the unauthorized collection and real-time transmission of sensitive geographic information to servers located outside of China. The MSS stressed that this activity is particularly concerning when it involves targeted areas offering high rewards for their data and thus attracting collectors to these sensitive locations.

MSS’s concern stems from the increasing use of advanced technologies such as big data, which, while improving navigation precision and convenience in daily travel, also increase the risk of sensitive information being leaked. This unauthorized data collection poses a significant threat to national security, as leaked information, including traffic networks, critical infrastructure and military facilities, can be technically analyzed and processed by foreign parties.

The statement further emphasized the integral role of geospatial information data for economic and social development and the danger it poses once sensitive information is leaked. To counter this threat, China’s national security authorities, in cooperation with relevant departments, are taking measures against domestic and foreign individuals and enterprises involved in the illegal collection and smuggling of China’s sensitive geospatial information data. The aim is to prevent the illegal leakage of such data and to reduce the risks associated with data leakage.

MSS also clarified that the collection and transmission of geospatial information data across borders without the necessary qualifications for mapping services in China may violate various Chinese laws, including the Counter-Espionage Law, the Geodesy and Mapping Law, and the Data Security Law. The statement emphasized the close relationship between geospatial information data and national security, highlighting the actions being taken to protect China’s sovereignty, security and development interests from unauthorized and illegal data collection activities by foreign companies and individuals who do not have appropriate qualification for mapping in China.

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