Police departments are using “gifted” Chinese drones to enforce social distancing rules.
The drones, ostensibly used by law enforcement for a hands-off way to police social distancing, are made by a Chinese firm which sends data back to the Chinese Communist Party.
The Daytona Beach Police Departments says the drones possess digital cameras and heat-detecting devices. These systems can detect body temperatures from 99 to 105 degrees.
A graphic from the manufacturer – DJI Innovations based in Shenzen, China – reveals 100 drones have been gifted to law enforcement and local authorities in recent weeks. They claim: “…we’re pleased to announce we are distributing 100 drones to 43 police, fire and public safety organizations in 22 states.”
Sergeant Tim Ehrenkaufer, who runs the Daytona Police drone unit, said in a statement: “If you have a 103 fever, that’ll come in handy letting us know at a glance: ‘Are you someone who possibly has the virus?’ ‘Do we need to make sure you have extra precautions?’”
The Elizabeth Police Department of New Jersey insists: “…we are just trying to save lives, not trying to be big brother.”
Intelligence officials, however, fear the drones do much more than just spread automated notices. They spread your data to the Chinese Communist Party, if it so chooses.
— Washington Co Public Safety (NY) (@WashCoNYDPS) April 19, 2020
Just a few years ago, a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employee drunkenly landed a DJI drone on the White House lawn.
The drone – a DJI “Phantom” – slipped past White House security. Following the incident, then-President Barack Obama told agencies to make sure that “these things aren’t dangerous and that they’re not violating people’s privacy.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have since grown increasingly concerned over the Chinese drones and the threat their widespread use poses to national security.
In early August 2017, the U.S. Army elected to ban the use of all DJI drones citing cyber vulnerabilities.
That same month, the office of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Los Angeles put out a memo stating officials have “moderate confidence” DJI’s commercial drones and software are “providing US critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.”
The New York Times reported:
In a briefing for Chinese and foreign journalists at DJI’s headquarters in Shenzhen on Wednesday, Zhang Fanxi, a spokesman for the company, said it was still working out how to deal with the data it collects in China. But for now, he said, DJI is complying with requests from the Chinese government to hand over data.
DJI’s user agreement also reads: “We may collect information about you directly from you, from third parties, and automatically through your use of the DJI Products and Services.” The warning continues, “We may share your information with our parent company, affiliates and subsidiaries globally when permitted by law, and necessary to provide you with DJI Products and Services.”
DJI occupies two-thirds of the global drone market. The company’s dominance of the drone market undoubtedly assists China’s Made in China 2025 scheme which aims to strengthen the country’s robotics capabilities, particularly in manufacturing and military sectors.
The novel coronavirus has exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s unreliability when it comes to information protection and data sharing. The use of Chinese drones by American law enforcement departments dangerously exposes our most critical information systems.