CHINA could be spying on Americans using drones that the US government warns may “pose potential threats to national security.”
The concern was aired after a report in The Intercept investigated concerns about Chinese-made Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) devices.
GettyThe NYPD is using a fleet of Chinese-made drones that the US government warns “pose potential threats to national security”[/caption]
GettyIn response to questions about the security of its drone arsenals, the NYPD stated they “do not conduct activities that would be of national security value”[/caption]
‘18 ARSENAL OPERATIONAL
In July, the US Department of Defense released a memo that stated Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) poses “potential threats to national security” and also retracted a report that suggested “certain models of DJI systems had been found to be approved for procurement and operations for US government departments and agencies.”
The DoD suggested that the report was “inaccurate and uncoordinated” and that the company’s devices were indeed dangerous to the country and its citizens.
DJI drones have been used by the NYPD – the country’s largest police force.
When pressed about the vulnerability of the devices that are believed to still be in use by the NYPD, the department issued a statement which read they “do not conduct activities that would be of national security value.”
The Sun’s attempt to reach DJI for comment was not immediately returned.
Three years ago the NYPD announced the procurement of 14 drones that were manufactured by a Shenzhen-based company called Da Jiang Innovations.
They also trained 29 police officers to pilot them, according to the New York Times.
“As the largest municipal police department in the United States, the NYPD must always be willing to leverage the benefits of new and always-improving technology,” former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at the time.
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“Our new Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program is part of this evolution -– it enables our highly-trained cops to be even more responsive to the people we serve, and to carry out the NYPD’s critical work in ways that are more effective, efficient, and safe for everyone,” O’Neill said.
The NYPD’s statement to The Sun confirmed that the DJI drones are put into action to benefit and protect New Yorkers.
The department stated it “utilizes unmanned Aircraft Systems for various police incidents including search and rescue operations, collisions, crime scenes, barricaded suspects, and other public safety or emergency incidents.”
It also stressed that the details of the NYPD’s uses of drones are fully transparent.
“Reports of this usage is regularly posted to the NYPD public website.”
The central concern that experts are seeing with DJI drones that are being used by NYPD and other departments in the US are mandated like other private companies in the country – to be beholden to the government.
China’s National Intelligence Law requires that any Chinese company support the nation’s intelligence work would have to share its data or create vulnerabilities to aid the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“It’s hard for DJI as a company to make the case that it is secure and credibly so and could not be subject to demands of the Chinese government and Communist Party when the CCP has been adamant that tech companies must obey the party,” Elsa Kania, a fellow with the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security, told The Intercept.
It also appears in terms of competition for the advanced drone market there aren’t many commercially comparable drone makers that equal DJI.
“The fact that DJI drones are still used to this extent reflects a failure to identify and procure alternatives, or the fact that there aren’t American or other international companies that can provide the same capability that DJI can, at a decent price point.”
CIVIL LIBERTIES AT RISK
As far as civil rights worries that the NYPD’s drones might compromise privacy of citizens, the NYPD’s drone policy suggests they “do not use facial recognition technologies and cannot conduct facial recognition analysis.”
However, The Intercept notes, a “still image can be created from the recorded video images and may be used as a probe image for facial recognition analysis.”
Yet some are now concerned there are too many questions about the benefits are being compromised by the drawbacks.
“You have the NYPD on one hand, who use the excuse of national security and city security to consistently expand their surveillance technology, and yet you have the U.S. military and U.S. agencies who are charged with that security, saying that they don’t trust this tool that the NYPD is using,” Jerome Greco, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Digital Forensics Unit told the publication.
EXPERT: DRONES ARE RISK
Greco suggested the NYPD isn’t heeding the warnings.
“It would seem unusual to me, considering how deeply connected the NYPD are to federal law enforcement agencies, especially after 9/11, for them to not have received some sort of warning.”
Another fear is even if the NYPD keeps to its promise to not infringe on the rights of its citizens, it’s hard to know if the data being gathered can be protected.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty about their ability to protect the data they’re collecting on New Yorkers, and no clear reporting if that data is compromised,” Albert Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, or STOP, a group that advocates against mass surveillance.
He fears there are too many uncertainties that the crucial data that is logged by the NYPD and other departments using drones, can wind up in the wrong hands.
“That can be a real risk to New Yorkers; and there are plenty of New Yorkers, including a lot of democracy activists, who have reason to be particularly fearful of the Chinese government,” he said.
“I would say there’s no such thing as a good police drone, but some are still worse than others.”
Barcroft MediaChina’s National Intelligence Law requires that any Chinese company support the nation’s intelligence work would have to share its data or create vulnerabilities[/caption]