Chinese agent exploited LinkedIn’s ‘relentless’ algorithm

  • Dickson Jun Wei Yeo pleaded guilty this month in a US court to obtaining sensitive information on behalf of Chinese intelligence agents.
  • Yeo told investigators that he exploited LinkedIn’s “relentless” algorithm to find new contacts in the government and military.
  • Those contacts were sometimes paid between $1,000 and $2,000 to draft reports, ostensibly for Yeo’s think tank. The reports were in fact provided to Beijing.
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A man who admitted to being an agent of the Chinese government used LinkedIn’s “relentless” algorithm to find new batches of US government contacts, telling investigators that his daily search for new sources on the social network “felt almost like an addiction,” according to a signed admission of guilt.

Dickson Jun Wei Yeo pleaded guilty on July 23 to being an illegal agent of China. As The Washington Post reported, he used the cover of academia to travel to the US and acquire “nonpublic information” for Beijing, in part by recruiting Americans to write paid reports for his phony think tank.

In his signed admission, Yeo admits to using a “professional networking website” — identified by The Washington Post as LinkedIn — to find government and military contacts likely to possess sensitive information.

“According to Yeo, the website’s algorithm was relentless,” the admission states. He checked the site “almost every day to review the new batch of potential contacts suggested to him by the site’s algorithm,” telling investigators “that it felt almost like an addiction.”

Those contacts were then paid between $1,000 and $2,000 for reports on topics such as the sale of F-35 aircraft to Japan and the US-China trade war. Those reports, ostensibly academic in nature, were then submitted to contacts known to Yeo as agents of Chinese intelligence.

LinkedIn has long been known as a recruitment grounds for intelligence agencies. Last year, The New York Times reported that it was “prime hunting ground,” where “Chinese spies are the most active.”

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