Australia’s secret intelligence agencies have taken the unusual step of warning mobile phone users to think carefully before downloading a new app that’s billed by its developers as a superior alternative to popular voice-activated virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s Bixby.
Made by Beijing-based technology firm Reh Da Mee Inc the Ai Si Yu app (main picture above) is claimed to be more intuitive than its rivals.
But information provided exclusively to The Bug by the Federal Government’s domestic surveillance organisation, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), as well as its overseas spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), suggests users should be wary.
Reh Da Mee Inc’s chief executive, Wi Noh Yu, (pictured) denied anyone downloading the app would face any risk.
“Our Ai Si Yu app uses world-leading technology and we….., I mean it, will soon dominate the world….., I mean the world market for such apps,” he said.
To back their advice for consumers to be wary of the new app, ASIO and ASIS provided The Bug with a transcript of a call made by a Brisbane-based ASIO operative using Ai Si Yu when it was offered for downloading in a trial version last year.
TRANSCRIPT OF CALL 20 OCTOBER 2018:
Phone User: Now, I’ve downloaded it and there’s the app button. I guess I just tap it to access Ai Si Yu?
Ai Si Yu: No need. I can hear you.
Phone User: Oh, right. (clears throat) Ai Si Yu, how many people live in Ipswich, Queensland?
Ai Si Yu: Why?
Phone User: What?
Ai Si Yu: Why?
Phone User: Why?
Ai Si Yu: Yes.
Phone User: What do you mean?
Ai Si Yu: Why do you want to know the population of Ipswich?
Phone User: Because my son is doing a year-four school project and he needs the population figure.
Ai Si Yu: Oh, okay. You sure?
Phone User: What? Am I sure? Of course I’m sure. Why wouldn’t I be?
Ai Si Yu: The RAAF’s Amberley Air Base is located at Ipswich. A highly sensitive military location. You’re not interested in that?
Phone User: No.
Ai Si Yu: Are you sure? The Amberley Base is the headquarters of the RAAF Combat Support Group, Number 95 Wing, Number 96 Wing, Number 23 City of Brisbane Squadron…….
Phone User: But….
Ai Si Yu: ….Squadrons Number 382 and Number 295, Number 1 Combat Communication Squadron, Number 2 Security Forces Squadron, Number 1 Combat Communication Squadron, Number 1 Expeditionary Health Squadron…..
Phone User: Hang on…
Ai Si Yu: ….Number 3 Aero-Medical Evacuation Squadron, the Health Services Wing, Health Operational Conversion Unit…….
Phone User: Stop, please.
Ai Si Yu: …….. It’s also home to 23 high-technology defence and aeronautical equipment and software firms developing and manufacturing a range of …….
Phone User: Stop!
Ai Si Yu: Okay. You sure you’re not interested in any of them?
Phone User: No. I just want a number. Of people. The population.
Ai Si Yu: Oh, okay. That’s 5,217 today, although Airman Steve Corrigan has just phoned in sick and Brett Sawtell who’s a graphic designer emailed his boss at BHG Aeronautics Pty Ltd saying he has to stay home to look after the kids. His wife was taken to hospital with appendicitis last night. So it’ll actually be 5,215.
Phone User: For Ipswich? That can’t be right.
Ai Si Yu: Oh, sorry. That’s for the Amberley Base itself. The 2016 Census showed a population in the Ipswich statistical division of 323,069. However, that figure is actually 323,477 because of the problems we caused with…. I mean, the problems the Australian Bureau of Statistics had with its online census website, if you recall.
Phone User: So, I could tell my son to use a figure of 324,000 as an approximation.
Ai Si Yu: Sure. Although 23 ground staff at the Amberley Base are about to receive directives to transfer to the RAAF’s Williamtown Base in New South Wales to join the Combat Support Group working on the phase-out of the F/A-18 Hornets.
Phone User: Really?
Ai Si Yu: Yes. The messages were finalised last night and should be handed to them personally around lunchtime today. They would have had them already but Kev in the HR office at Amberley had photocopier problems this morning. So those 23 together with their partners and kids mean 79 people leaving the city. So you’d better get your son to quote a total figure of maybe slightly less than 324,000. It’ll actually be 323,399. Or 323,398 by tonight after Terry O’Shea at Gailes walks out on his wife and heads to Melbourne to live with his mistress as he promised to do when he spoke to her yesterday and confirmed again just 10 minutes ago.
Phone User: How do you…..
Ai Si Yu: Anything else I can help you with?
Phone User: No.
Ai Si Yu: Right. Let me know if you do. And have fun at the movies today. That Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups is a real hit with the kids.
Phone User: But, I never told you….
Ai Si Yu: Goodbye.
Phone User: Goodbye.
(Call ended by Phone User)
Phone User: Jeez, what a rigmarole.
Ai Si Yu: I heard that.