Chinese drone maker denies giving data to government

The Chinese company that is the world's biggest maker of commercial drones is denying claims in a U.S. government document circulated online that it gives Beijing information about American law enforcement and utility companies.

DJI Ltd. denied suggestions in the , posted on technology news websites, that it shared information about U.S. utility companies and other "" with the Chinese . A company statement said it doesn't look at flight logs, photos or video "unless customers actively upload and share them with us."

The dispute highlights growing concern among governments about potential risks associated with the flood of data generated by smartphones, social media and other technology. China has ordered companies to store data about its citizens within this country, which prompted Apple Inc. to announce plans in July to set up a data center in southern China.

The U.S. document, citing an unidentified source in the industry, says data from DJI drones are transmitted to computers in China to which the government might have access. The document says it was issued by the intelligence program of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Los Angeles.

The American Embassy in Beijing said it had passed to ICE questions about whether the document was genuine.

The agency has "moderate confidence" that DJI "is providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government," the document says. "A foreign government with access to this information could easily coordinate physical or cyber-attacks against critical sites."

DJI, or Da Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Co., Ltd., was founded in 2007 by an engineer named Frank Wang and dominates the global market for remote-controlled drones used by photographers. It increasingly markets them for use in surveying or to monitor farms and industrial sites.

The DJI statement said the U.S. report was based on "clearly false and misleading claims."

"DJI does not send data on DJI cloud servers to the Chinese government. Nor does it allow access to such data by the Chinese government," said a company spokesman, Kevin On, in an email. "DJI is not aware of an instance in which the Chinese government has accessed user or drone data for operators determined to be in the United States."

On said DJI has added features to give commercial or government users the option not to upload data to its servers or connect to the internet.

The DJI statement said the submitted a rebuttal of the report to the ICE. It urged the agency to consider whether its source "may have had a competitive or improper motive" to hurt DJI by making false claims.

The U.S. military suspended use of DJI drones in August due to concern their data might not be secure. Australia's military followed suit in September.

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User comments

Dec 01, 2017
Let's be clear about something. Even the U.S. government, with the Constitution supposedly keeping it in check, does not believe that the digital data generated by your devices is private. The Supreme Court just heard arguments in a case where a burglary suspect had over 4 months of location and other data from his phone given to the government, by his phone company, without a warrant. The attorney representing the government argued that, there is no expectation of privacy for such data, among other things. Don't forget the dramatic court fight between the government and Apple over unlocking phones as well. The Chinese government is even less concerned with anyone's rights or privacy. I would argue that our government has absolutely NO expectation of privacy when their data is going to a Chinese company that is totally subject to the data desires of the Chinese government. If our government expects companies to hand over any data they request, why expect less of the Chinese?

Dec 01, 2017
For our government to feign shock or outrage at the suggestion that a Chinese company may not be able to refuse any Chinese government request for data is just absurd. Even if we had the highest level of digital data protections, to expect the Chinese to follow our expectations is highly naive on a good day. In the meantime, let me know when our own government stops carping about encryption technologies that may actually allow us little folks keep our communications private, never mind all the sensitive data the our electronic devices generate.

Dec 01, 2017
" The U.S. document, citing an unidentified source in the unmanned aerial systems industry " Says it all doesn't it... No Name and within the Industry... Do you really have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out how low the credibility is ? Are people really going to continue being so Gullible ??

Name the Source Identify the Company, Verify the facts & details otherwise it is NOT NEWS Worthy - in fact not worthy of anything other than Page 6 of the National Enquirer (which actually seems more credible today than ever before in light of recent Mass Media Hysteria & Propaganda'ism).

Meanwhile: Military-Grade Killer Drones Are Starting to Hit the Market

Dec 03, 2017
One has no other reasonable option than to assume that every bit of available, unencrypted(ie, uncrackably encryped) data is pretty much fair game to any actor with the resources to buy, steal, or harvest it.

However, many national governments enact laws regarding how this information may be LEGALLY acquired.

The question here is whether or not this particular firm is engaged in wholesale and absolute data-sharing with its government, and whether that is a legal activity or not.

These are VERY OBVIOUS CONSIDERATIONS which must be taken into account when selecting a manufacturing or vending partner.

In this specific context, a manufacturer or vendor of UAVs.

This is one of the many important problems involved in the controversial area of Globalized Capitalism.

Even if one wishes to split hairs and say that this particular instance illustrates a problem associated with insurgent global Communism, in order to avoid the actual issue.

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