Members of the People’s Liberation Army, desperate to drive to work with all the flair and panache that Elon Musk’s overrated cars offer, are apparently out of luck. Citing “national security” concerns, the Chinese government reportedly banned the use of Tesla vehicles by state and military employees on certain government properties.
According to reports from the Wall street journal Y Bloomberg, the People’s Republic of China is reportedly concerned that Tesla’s high-tech cars could be a source of data breaches or foreign espionage. Of particular concern is the large number of internal sensors and cameras installed in Tesla vehicles, which could be used to funnel sensitive data “back to the US,” government officials worry.
The order related to the ban was allegedly issued by the Chinese military and restricts government officials from using vehicles on certain government and military properties. as well as “Drive to housing complexes for families of personnel working in sensitive industries and state agencies.” The ban follows a “government security review” of Tesla by the government, WSJ reports, which apparently did not go very well.
The review raised concerns about data collected by vehicles and Tesla, including vehicle location data and mobile phone contact lists that are synced with the car’s internal systems.
We recently covered how today’s car is basically a treasure trove of personal data (which can be shared, sold, or stolen), so China’s concerns are potentially not without merit.
In addition to this, Tesla has had a handful of questionable security incidents Through the years. In 2016, security researchers (in China no less)showed that they could remotely hack into company cars through your Wi-Fi; hackers had the ability to pump brakes, open the trunk and turn the vehicle the windshield wipers turn on and off. TO recent episode where a hacker was able to gain access to hundreds of internal company security cameras through an external vendor has also raised concerns.
The ban is also indicative of how the tech industry has become a domain of the political conflict between the United States and China. Under President Trump, the United States moved to aggressively repress at any Chinese tech company it deemed a threat to “national security”: blacklisting dozens of companies and trying to censor their access to American audiences while excluding them from financial investment. For China to respond in the same way seems normal.