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Is China Spying On Tesla?

Tesla and other electric vehicle (EV) companies in China send as many as 61 real-time data points, typically without the drivers’ knowledge, to monitoring centers backed by the Chinese government, The Associated Press reports, raising questions whether the huge amount of data that China requires from automakers to transmit may be used for surveillance.

Tesla and more than 200 other carmakers—including Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Nissan, and Mitsubishi—send location information and details about battery and engine function in EVs to government-backed monitoring centers.

While many cars in the U.S., Europe, and Japan send location information back to the car manufacturers who feed the data to car-tracking and amenities apps, the data from passenger cars stops there in those markets. Government agencies and law enforcement can access more personal data in those markets only in case of a specific criminal investigation, lawyers told AP’s Erika Kinetz.

In China, the amount of real-time data sent to and collected at the monitoring centers is much larger, which sparks concerns about privacy, whether the data is used for mass surveillance, and whether proprietary car-manufacturing data about engine/hybrid/batteries could be used to the advantage of Chinese government-backed companies.

The carmakers say that they just follow local laws to send EVs sensors data to the monitoring centers, according to the AP. China claims that the data is used for data analytics to improve infrastructure planning and public safety. But critics of the vast amount of real-time data collected fear that the data goes way beyond the Chinese aims to improve safety and infrastructure.

Carmakers have initially resisted sending so many data points to Chinese monitoring centers, but then the government bound data sharing with incentives—transmitting data is a requirement for incentives, a government consultant who helped assess the policy told AP.

Fears of government surveillance may not be unfounded, considering the Communist country’s aim to keep everyone in line and the recent media attention on China’s plan to roll out a Social Credit System to rank its citizens.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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