Government memo: DJI may be using drones to spy on US for China

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Thursday November 30, 2017

By Jeff Meyer

An unclassified memo from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims that DJI drones and apps are being used to gather data for the Chinese government.

While stating it’s not a certainty, the ICE memo claims with ‘high confidence’ that DJI is selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within the science and technology sectors to expand its ability to gather data on US infrastructure and law enforcement, which it then feeds back to the Chinese government.

The memo says its claim is based on “information derived from open source reporting and a reliable source within the unmanned aerial systems industry with first and second-hand access.”

The memo states:

“SIP (Special Agent in Charge Intelligence Program) Los Angeles assesses with moderate confidence that Chinese-based company DJI Science and Technology is providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government. SIP Los Angeles further assesses with high confidence the company is selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within these sectors to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.

“Since 2015, DJI has targeted a number of U.S. companies in the critical infrastructure and law enforcement sectors to market its UAS. As of July 2017, at least ten large companies and organizations operating in the railroad, utility, media, farming, education, and federal law enforcement sectors have already purchased and begun using DJI UAS. The most frequent uses include mapping land, inspecting infrastructure, conducting surveillance, and monitoring hazardous materials.”

Click here to read the full memo

DJI strongly denies the allegations, and in a statement said: “The allegations in the bulletin are so profoundly wrong as a factual matter that ICE should consider withdrawing it, or at least correcting its unsupportable assertions.”

And to be fair to DJI, we’ve read the memo… and there isn’t a whole lot of evidence in it. The memo, for instance, cites a California wine producer that bought a DJI drone to survey its vineyard, and not long afterward a Chinese company bought vineyards in the same area.

It also cites DJI’s aggressive pricing methods that effectively neutered its competition.

What’s more, DJI has taken steps in recent months to protect its users’ privacy, introducing options like its new Offline Mode.

Via New York Times

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