A comprehensive report from The Associated Press has revealed that hundreds of different vehicles sold in China transmit position information, among other things, to the Chinese government.
In total, more than 200 manufacturers, including the likes of Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Daimler, Nissan, and Mitsubishi transmit dozens of data points to monitoring centers owned by the government, including The Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center and the National Big Data Alliance of New Energy Vehicles.
The Associated Press reports that the data-collection systems have been in place since the beginning of 2017. Chinese officials claim that the data is collected to improve public safety while facilitating industrial development and infrastructure planning, as well as preventing fraud in subsidy programs. Car manufacturers claim that they are simply complying with local laws by providing the data.
What is particularly worrying about the data-collection are the details the Chinese government receives. In fact, staff at monitoring centers have a real-time map of all new energy vehicles across the country and, at the press of a button, can select an individual vehicle and receive information like the make and model, mileage and even the vehicle’s battery charge.
The information from these new energy vehicles is initially sent back to the manufacturer. The companies then send at least 61 data points to local monitoring facilities across China.
According to staff from The Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center, information is not shared with police, prosecutors or courts. However, the information can be shared with government security agencies if a formal request is made.
The Verge reached out to a number of car manufacturers supplying vehicle information to the Chinese government, including Daimler and Volkswagen. Both companies say that customers are informed of the data-sharing. However, The Associated Press claims that the data-sharing generally happens without the owners’ knowledge.
Critics of China’s required data-sharing say that the information can be used for surveillance and to undermine the competitive position of foreign carmakers in the country. No other governments are believed to be gathering data from new-age hybrid and electric vehicles.