Connect with us


Chinese electric-car owners worry their cars talk to the government



Tesla China
visitor sits in the driver’s seat of a Tesla Model X on display
at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing,
Tuesday, April 26, 2016.

AP Photo/Mark

  • A new report from
    the Associated Press
    indicates that electric-car makers,
    including Tesla, transmit data from its owner-operated vehicles
    to the Chinese government.
  • Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Mitsubishi, and many others are
    telling the Chinese government where drivers are alongside a
    whole batch of other data points, the
    has found.
  • The newswire service reports that the data is sent to
    “government-backed monitoring centers,” and the data-collection
    largely happens without drivers being aware.
  • While the stream of information from electric cars adds
    another layer to China’s arsen of digital tracking tools,
    President Xi Jinping retains many other sources of data in his
    militarization of social surveillance in China.

A new report from
the Associated Press
indicates that electric-car makers,
including Tesla, transmit data from its owner-operated vehicles
to the Chinese government.

More than 200 manufacturers like Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford,
General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and US-listed electric vehicle
startup Nio, tell the Chinese government where you are with
positioning data alongside a whole batch of other data point, the
Associated Press has found.

AP reports, that the data is sent to “government-backed
monitoring centers,” and largely happens without drivers being
aware that their movements and other information in being

While the tracking of electric cars adds another layer to China’s
growing arsenal of social surveillance tools, the information is
publicly available, according to the AP.

“Electric vehicles in China transmit data from the car’s sensors
back to the manufacturer. From there, automakers send at least 61
data points, including location and details about battery and
engine function to local centers,” The AP reports.

Thye decision by the Chinese government to obligate electric
vehicle makers to provide such data points for centralized and
undefined uses stands in contrast to other major car markets like
the United States, Japan, and Europe which are generally not in
the business of harvesting real-time location data from
privately-owned vehicles.

Modern cars also generally gather data on the car’s internal
systems and track information to better understand driving habits
and transmit that information back to the car manufacturer. But
the notion of sending data to the government would generally
invite significant privacy concerns.

Not so in the China of today under President Xi Jinping, who
heads up a special all-powerful cyber unit that sits above every
other committee and government department overseeing anything
cyber-side, from propaganda, surveillance to internet censorship.

In February 2014, Xi created for himself a new title and position
as head of the newly created Central Cyberspace Affairs
Commission (中央网络安全和信息化委员会 or CCAF), sitting above even the
central propaganda department or the State Internet Information
Office (国家互联网信息办公室) assuming personal control of all aspects of
China’s cyber-future.

Read more:

Elon Musk said Tesla owners will be able to use their phones to
summon their vehicles from ‘across the continent’ in a few

In April, Xi made a surprise and somewhat historic visit to a
Cyberspace conference in Beijing, detailing his vision of what
cyberspace governance with Chinese characteristics looks like.

“China has achieved historic progress in the development of
cybersecurity and informatization, formed a model of cyberspace
governance with Chinese characteristics, and developed a
strategic thought to advance the country’s strength in this
regard,” the
Xinhua News Agency reported Xi as saying

Xi has been very big on enhancing military-civilian integration
across “cybersecurity and informatization,” calling it a “key and
cutting-edge frontier field with the greatest vitality and
potential in the drive for integration,”
China Daily reported
in April.

Whatever that means, it is clear that Xi intends for the Chinese
Communist Party to form the center of a military approach to
public governance from where his CCAF can literally direct the

China is building and applying facial-recognition technology;
tech giants monitoring their own customers; forcing citizens to
download apps that monitor their content; requiring Chinese tech
companies, like Alibaba, to share data; having law enforcement
officers wear special glasses to identify people in crowded
places, like streets and train stations, and
the list goes on

Analysts have suggested Xi is building
the world’s first digital autocracy
beginning with a
digitally-enhanced social-credit system that scrutinizes every
action and decision, good or bad, and collates a potentially
limitless variety of data to provide each citizen with a
color-coded social rank that describes who you are in the eyes of
the CCP.

“You’re learning a lot about people’s day-to-day activities and
that becomes part of what I call ubiquitous surveillance, where
pretty much everything that you do is being recorded and saved
and potentially can be used in order to affect your life and your
freedom,” Michael Chertoff, who was Homeland Security secretary
under President George W. Bush told

Chinese officials say the electric-car data is only used to
improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and
infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy
programs, the AP reports.

However, while sales of alternatively fueled cars made up 2.6% of
China’s total car sales last year, China has made it very clear
the creation and distribution of new energy vehicles is national

According to Bloomberg China is leading the shift to electric

Every second electric car sold today goes to China and Bloomberg
expects this to continue through 2025, when 19% of all passenger
vehicle sales will be in China. That will coincide nicely with
the vision of local policymakers that AP says are targeting 20%
of all car sales by the same year.

EV sales in China hit 95,000 in May 2018, up 128% on May 2017.

From next year, AP says that all automakers in China must meet
production minimums for new energy vehicles, part of Beijing’s
aggressive effort to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources
and place itself at the forefront of the alternative energies

These government regulations on sharing data from next-generation
connected cars sets a worrying precedent, AP observes, and if
China can hit its new car targets in 2025, then the government
will be gleaning a whole new and rich stream of data without even
leaving the government-backed monitoring center.

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job