China’s top spy agency cracks down on illegal weather stations


China’s top spy agency said it cleaned up hundreds of “illegal meteorological” stations that sent real-time data outside China as it steps up efforts to stop critical data leaving the country amid increasingly tense geopolitical competition.
The country’s civilian spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, said on Tuesday that the facilities were found across more than 20 provinces, and some of them were “directly funded by foreign governments,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.
The spy agency reported that some stations were set up around sensitive sites, such as military bases and defence companies, to locate altitude and GPS data. In addition, they placed stations in major grain-producing regions to analyse crop growth and grain yield, according to the ministry.
The ministry pointed out that some of these devices were small, easy to install, and hard to detect. They were capable of automatically collecting and transmitting data over a network in real-time.
The statement also revealed that some of these stations transmitted real-time information to official meteorological agencies overseas at a high frequency and at multiple points for an extended period. They served the “homeland security” and meteorological monitoring of foreign countries.
The ministry did not disclose the specific foreign countries involved in these activities.
Authorities made this discovery after investigating over 10 overseas meteorological equipment agents and inspecting more than 3,000 foreign-linked meteorological stations nationwide, as reported by CNN.
The spy agency noted that the involved foreign parties did not obtain administrative licences for their activities and had not submitted the data to Chinese meteorological authorities or obtained approval for transmitting the data overseas. These actions were in violation of China’s data security law enacted in 2021 and a separate set of regulations governing how foreign organisations can collect, use, and share Chinese weather readings, as reported by CNN on Thursday.