'Cars in China are watching their drivers and reporting where they are to the government.
Authorities claim that the data is only used to ensure that the roads, cars and drivers are safe. But privacy experts fear the data could be used for more invasive forms of surveillance.
Hundreds of car manufacturers of electric vehicles – including Tesla, as well as more traditional companies like Volkswagen, BMW and Ford – transmit dozens of different kinds of information to the government. The information is sent without the driver or owner of the car even knowing it.
Car companies say the data is being sent because of local regulations, which force alternative fuel vehicles to give up data about where they are. China has called upon all electric vehicle manufacturers in China to make the same kind of reports — potentially adding to the rich kit of surveillance tools available to the Chinese government as President Xi Jinping steps up the use of technology to track citizens.
The data then provides a vast map of every person in their car, which can be individually watched as they drive around the streets.
Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programmes. But other countries where the same cars are sold don't require that data to be tracked.
And critics say the information collected in China is beyond what is needed to meet the country's stated goals. It could be used not only to undermine foreign carmakers' competitive position, but also for surveillance — particularly in China, where there are few protections on personal privacy. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has unleashed a war on dissent, marshalling big data and artificial intelligence to create a more perfect kind of policing, capable of predicting and eliminating perceived threats to the stability of the ruling Communist Party.'
Read more: Electric cars in China tell the government where their drivers are at all times, investigation finds
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