Officials Raise Concerns Over Chinese Drones Used in Pandemic
Earlier this month, we reported that some cities, including Chula Vista, California, were using Chinese drones as tools to enforce social distancing during the pandemic. By April 20, there were 46 law enforcement agencies in 22 states using them. Some experts are saying that this is a serious cyber security issue, not to mention the destruction of privacy.
Privacy? What privacy?
In some cities, like Elizabeth, New Jersey for example, failure to comply with the orders from the drone can cause residents to face a summons and/or up to a $1000 fine. The Mayor, J Christian (Chris) Bollwage, told NBC specifically that he is ignoring criticism of the program.
So big brother is alive and well all across the nation. And it appears to be getting worse as more and more communities crack down on their citizens during the pandemic. The fact that Chinese drones are involved is concerning.
What could China possibly hope to learn from the drones?
“It’s about China’s long-term goal, not COVID. People will give away their right to privacy because of the coronavirus, but do they know what they are signing up for?” Barry Bryer, Virginia resident and drone flyer
DJI – which stands for Da Jiang Innovations, is the maker of the drones, and has 87-90% of the market share. Even the US Army banned the use of DJI drones back in 2017 due to security concerns, as we previously reported.
The law enforcement agencies are using the technology to literally spy on people in places where patrol cars can’t reach during the lockdowns. They use the PA system inside the drones to yell at people and tell them to break it up. One issue is what the Chinese drones are revealing to China…can they learn anything of importance?
“Should people be concerned? Yes. Everyone should always be concerned. You can never trust China.” Brett Velicovich, former Army intelligence and Delta Force operator, author of “Drone Warrior.“
The people at DJI have claimed that drone users can disconnect their drones from the internet so there’s nothing to worry about…but officials say that even they may not know what information is being transmitted or how. US intelligence officials were so worried about the drones that they grounded their entire fleet.
In February, the Department of Interior issued a no-fly order for their fleet of drones over America because they could be used for government or commercial espionage.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said while the government would make some exceptions for drones – search-and-rescue operations as well as those involving emergencies where human lives are in danger – he directed U.S. officials to favor domestically made ones out of concern that data collected by aerial drones could be “valuable to foreign entities, organizations and governments.”
Drones are used by oil companies to check pipelines as well as hundreds of other uses from volcano watches to search and rescue. They are important in today’s world, and people are even using them as a source of entertainment. But all of it is coming at a price and that price could be devastating, not just for privacy, but for the information that is being gathered.
“The Communist Party of China now has in their law the availability to interfere and take information from virtually every Chinese company. As long as that exists, that provides a whole set of vulnerabilities I think American business has to consider on a going-forward basis.” Sen Mark Warner, (D-VA)
Welcome to 1984, America.
Featured photo: screenshot via NBC