Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

  • China is using social media outlets to recruit German informants, says Germany's spy agency. (Photo: Kyra Preston)

The German domestic intelligence agency (BfV) says China is using fake profiles on social media to target German officials and politicians.

"This is a broad-based attempt to infiltrate, in particular, parliaments, ministries and government agencies," said BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen on Sunday (10 December).

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Maassen said more than 10,000 Germans have been approached by the alleged ruse from Chinese profiles posing as reputable professionals on social networking site LinkedIn.

The BfV released around half dozen fake LinkedIn profiles of young attractive Chinese professionals.

Among them is Laeticia Chen who supposedly works at the China Center for International Politics and Economy. Another, Eva Han, is from the China University of Political Science and Law.

The people behind the suspected profiles attempt to link to others, asking them to contact them. The BfV says the moves are designed to possibly recruit high-ranking officials to become Chinese informants.

"Chinese intelligence services are active on networks like LinkedIn and have been trying for a while to extract information and find intelligence sources in this way," said the BfV.

The allegations of Chinese spying are not limited to Germany.

China has also been accused of trying to meddle with Australian elections and domestic affairs. China has denied the allegations.

But last week, Canberra announced a raft of new laws to crack down on any such efforts.

In November, the US Congress said Chinese news media outlets like Xinhua act as an arm of China's state intelligence agency and demanded that they register as foreign agents.

The US also has CIA spies inside China. According to the New York Times, up to 20 CIA spies have either been killed or imprisoned in China between 2010 and 2012.

The broader China move appears to be part of a larger effort by the Chinese state to create a mass surveillance network.

In 2015, it began building SkyNet, an internal country-wide system that uses millions of CCTV cameras to track and probe their own citizens at home using facial recognition technology.

Some 170 million cameras are already installed nationwide with plans to erect another 400 million over the next three years.

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MEPs have introduced a human rights clause into the export of cyber surveillance technology as part of EU-wide reforms to prevent abuse by autocratic regimes. The Strasbourg plenary will vote on the bill on Wednesday.

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Speaking in Brussels, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, says the social media giant has "not done enough to stop the abuse of our technology." Her admission comes with new plans to wrestle with "bad content".

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