Drone Manufacturer in China Denies Providing Data to Government

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The Chinese company that is the planet’s biggest manufacturer of commercial drones is denying claims in a U.S. government document circulated online that it provides Beijing info about American law enforcement and utility businesses.

DJI Ltd. denied ideas in the record, posted on technology news websites, that it shared info about U.S. utility businesses and other “critical infrastructure” with the Chinese authorities. A company statement said that it does not look in flight logs, video or photos “unless clients actively upload and share them with us.”

The dispute highlights growing concern among authorities About potential risks related to the flood of information generated by smartphones, social websites and other technology. China has ordered businesses to store information about its citizens in this nation, which prompted Apple Inc. to announce plans in July to create a data centre in southern China.

The U.S. document, citing an anonymous source in the unmanned aerial systems sector, says information from DJI drones are transmitted to computers in China to which the government might have access. The record says it was issued with the intelligence application of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Los Angeles.

The bureau has “moderate confidence” that DJI “is providing U.S. crucial infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese authorities,” the document states. “A foreign government using this info could easily coordinate physical or cyber-attacks against critical websites.”

DJI Ltd., was founded in 2007 by a scientist named Frank Wang and dominates the global market for remote-controlled drones used by photographers. It increasingly markets them for use in surveying or to monitor farms and industrial sites.

The DJI announcement said the U.S. report was based on “certainly false and misleading claims.” “DJI Doesn’t send data on DJI cloud servers to the Chinese government. Nor does it permit access to these information by the Chinese authorities,” said a company spokesman, Kevin On, in an email. “DJI isn’t aware of an instance where the Chinese government has accessed drone or user data for operators determined to maintain the United States.”

On said DJI has additional features to give commercial or government users the option not to upload data to its servers or link to the world wide web. The DJI announcement said the firm submitted a rebuttal it encouraged the agency to consider whether its source “might have experienced a competitive or improper motive” to hurt DJI by making bogus claims.

The U.S. military suspended usage of DJI drones in August because of concern their information may not be protected.