Chef robots and Beijing Winter Olympics surveillance app



Surveillance at the Winter Olympics is inevitable, tech experts warn, with bots and apps tracking visitors

By Rina Chandran

February 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The 2022 Winter Olympics are set to begin in Beijing on February 4 with an array of technologies aimed at greater convenience and safety for participants and visitors, but which may also pose risks for privacy and security, rights experts have warned.

Technology is a key part of China’s strategy to control the coronavirus pandemic, including contact tracing apps, drones and robots. But privacy experts have warned that these measures have increased surveillance of residents.

All visitors to the Winter Olympics will be subjected to technologies such as predictive policing in the ‘Orwellian surveillance state’, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing, with athletes also facing punishment for speaking out about violations human rights in China.

Michael Caster, digital program manager for Asia at human rights group Article 19, said that “China imposes one of the most restrictive internet controls in the world, imposing totalitarian control over expression and access to information online”.

“These conditions will continue during the Games.”

Here’s a look at some of the Beijing Winter Olympics technologies that are expected to attract more than 2,000 international athletes and 25,000 other stakeholders.


Athletes and delegates can expect some of their food – along with coffee and ice cream – to be prepared and served by robot chefs who have been seen assembling burgers and delivering food to tables and tables. room service orders.

Robots are also being used to transport materials between sites, provide social distancing and sanitize areas.


The digital yuan, a central bank digital currency (CBDC), will be used at the Olympics in the first major test of the virtual currency among foreigners after trials across China.

Visitors can download an app, get a digital yuan card, or convert foreign currency to e-CNY at vending machines. There are also wristbands that act as e-wallets and can be swiped to pay for items.

More than 90 countries are reportedly studying, testing or launching CBDCs, which authorities say can improve financial access and payment efficiency.

But CBDCs are also vulnerable to cyberattacks, data breaches and theft, and can increase surveillance, tech experts have warned.


The MY2022 app that attendees must use for daily COVID-19 monitoring contains security flaws that can expose users to data breaches, including their passport details and medical history, researchers said. Citizen Lab last month.

“As the app collects a range of highly sensitive medical information, it is unclear with whom or with what organization(s) it shares this information,” Toronto’s Citizen Lab project said in a report.

The app also contains censorship and surveillance keywords considered politically sensitive in China, and allows users to flag other users’ posts, according to Citizen Lab.

Authorities said the main purpose of the app was to monitor people’s health and it followed strict rules to protect data.

Separately, cybersecurity company Internet 2.0 advised participants to buy and take with them a new phone to be used only in China to protect their SIM card information and create a new email address and account. browser on the phone.

American athletes at the Winter Olympics have been encouraged to use a new device, and Dutch athletes have been told to leave their phones and laptops at home to avoid the risk of being spied on.


Authorities have promised unlimited internet access to foreign athletes at the Olympics, a rare break in China’s so-called Great Firewall that blocks access to popular messaging apps, social media platforms, search engines and websites considered a threat to national security.

But using Chinese WiFi services to connect to WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube – which are otherwise blocked in the country – will leave visitors vulnerable to surveillance, tech experts have warned.

“Surveillance risk is inevitable for visitors to China, and regardless of its promises, Beijing will not allow unrestricted network access during the Olympics,” Caster told Article 19.

“If the International Olympic Committee wants to tout the merits of Olympic Wi-Fi, it should also support an effective and independent assessment of network security.”

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(Reporting by Rina Chandran in Bangkok @rinachandran; Editing by Zoe Tabary. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit http:/ /

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