My2022 app concerns an attempt to politicize health, security measures
Keith Lamb
The display of My2022 app. /Screenshot via Apple App Store

The display of My2022 app. /Screenshot via Apple App Store

Editor's note: Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Recently numerous Western media outlets have whipped up a storm in a teacup over the My2022 Winter Olympic app, which tracks COVID-19 cases and conveys information on the games. Stories depict the app as inherently untrustworthy due to its China connections, where users must be wary of their data being used by the Chinese state.

This narrative has arisen due to the watchdog Citizen Lab report. In early December 2021, it noted that due to flaws in the coding, personal data might be used by hackers and Chinese authorities for social control. Furthermore, they said within the code exists a list of terms that could be monitored.

However, upon reading the report and noting the context that has given rise to the My2022 app, there seems to be more than just a bit of politicizing going on. Looking at the claims, we have to ask whether they are accurate and what is missing or buried within these media stories.

Firstly, the Citizen Lab report describes itself as "an academic research lab focused on the study of digital threats to civil society and high-level policy engagement." This is a lofty goal. However, one must note that, being based out of Canada's Toronto University it may have its own biases.

For example, being funded by billionaire George Soros's Open Society Foundation, one might conclude that Citizen Lab is compromised by the class interests of neoliberal transnational capital. Then, its chairperson is funded by Canada's Department of National Defence. The irony is that those who are members of civil society and claim to stand up for freedom are funded by the same forces Western governments must kneel to.

Anyway, while noting that funding sources raise contradictions around the very nature of civil society, looking at the Citizen Lab report itself shows that its claims are tame compared to how they have been magnified in the press. For example, it claims that problems with data privacy may be due to China, in the past, not having "specific agencies that oversee private companies' collections and protection of personal data" rather than a bond villain master plan to capture the data of visitors coming to China.

A traffic lane is reserved for exclusive use by Beijing 2022 participants on Deshengmenwai Street in Beijing, capital of China, January 21, 2022. /Xinhua

A traffic lane is reserved for exclusive use by Beijing 2022 participants on Deshengmenwai Street in Beijing, capital of China, January 21, 2022. /Xinhua

Then we have to ask whether reported flaws in the app early in December merely represent normal glitches in new software? In its Chinese version, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that the Beijing Organizing Committee claims bugs have been fixed.  Indeed, with software, as alluded to in the report, this is a normal process, and it's why there are constant updates. At any rate, My2022 is available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, which both have strict vetting procedures.

Coming to the claim that Beijing purposely put flaws in the app, so they could access the data of those arriving to view the Olympics is also a nonstory because the app, which seeks to prevent COVID-19, will explicitly share users' health data with relevant government and non-governmental agencies involved in keeping the Olympic Games COVID-19 free. Simply put, the Chinese government doesn't need a murky plan to "steal" your data because you voluntarily agree to give up this data to prevent the spread of a virus.

Now perhaps some will see this as a step too far, and some may even believe apps that "track and trace" in their own countries are an invasion of personal privacy and so refuse to use them. Fine, but don't attend the Olympic Games and don't use the My2022 app. One has to remember that China has remained relatively COVID-19 free, so why shouldn't it have the right to have an app that makes sure those coming from other countries don't spread COVID-19 to its citizens? Indeed, this is precisely what Japan did, without being demonized, when they last held the Olympic Games.

Citizen Lab's final criticism is that there is a list of sensitive words which could be tracked. Again, this is a nonstory because the list is inactive. However, considering China and the Olympic Games have been the target of terrorist attacks in the past and considering there are forces that will inevitably seek to embarrass or harm China during the Olympics, the list, even though inactive, may be instructive of what anti-terrorist operations are looking for. For example, the number one phrase Citizen Lab gives is "Jews are pigs," which, considering terrorists targeted the Israeli team in 1972, shows obvious concern for Israeli athletes.

If Citizen Lab has found some legitimate coding errors, then let us thank them for their work. But at the same time, let us close the curtain on the political theater taking place. Already we are expected to swallow the hogwash that Western governments, due to genocide claims, will allow their athletes to attend while simultaneously imposing a diplomatic boycott. The fact is they know if they banned their athletes, huge swaths of the population would start to fact-check the genocide claims, which would quickly unravel.

Nevertheless, the charade must go on, and no opportunity to whip up loathing toward China, even when the world should be coming together in competitive friendship, will be missed. In this context, an app that seeks to keep the Olympic Games COVID-19 free must be reported as a tool for Chinese state repression.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at

Search Trends