DJI may hand over drone data in Hong Kong to Chinese government

DJI

The world’s largest drone maker DJI said on Wednesday that the company could give the data from flights in Hong Kong to the Chinese government, according to The New York Times.

Zhang Fanxi, a spokesman made such a statement in a briefing to the press on Wednesday at DJI headquarters in Shenzhen, a city where other major Chinese tech firms are also located, such as Tencent and Huawei.

Zhang said DJI is for now complying with requests from the Chinese government to hand over data. He added that the company could also give the government data from flights in Hong Kong. But he also said: “This data, exactly how we use it, when we use it and which government departments we give it to” is a continuing discussion.

Zhang did not mention how the company handles the users’ data in the US and Europe, but said it will inform users if any of their information is handed over to the government, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg also reported that such data includes location, flight records and possibly video shot by users and uploaded to its servers. But the company’s head of global communications Adam Najberg said DJI did not have a way to see video or images from drones beyond those that users upload themselves via a company social-media app. He was previously a digital editor for The Wall Street Journal Asia, and joined the drone-making company in 2015.

Only a day later on Thursday, an American online media outlet The Verge rebutted the stories made by NYT and Bloomberg. It quoted Najberg as saying: “We value our customers’ privacy, and a statement to media from a recently hired, junior employee about these issues on Wednesday imprecisely and incorrectly referred to some elements of our privacy policy and how we handle requests from government agencies seeking any information about our users.”

“Should DJI receive a valid legal request from a government agency, we may provide user information to that agency, just as other companies do and solely in line with the privacy policy spelled out in our app and on our website,” said Najberg.” That is the case in the U.S., China or anywhere in the world where a valid legal request is made by authorities through proper legal procedures.”

But according to DJI’s privacy policy, one thing need to be concerned about lies in the fact that the users’ personal data is saved in servers in the US, China or Hong Kong, or all of the three locations, .

China is seeking full control over the unmanned aircrafts amid their rising popularity. On Monday, a regulation system aiming to collect data of all drones in China was officially launched, according to a major Chinese internet portal Sohu. Named U-Cloud, the system is the first of this kind approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the top civil aviation authority in the country. The data collected through U-Cloud includes a drone’s location, altitude, speed and course, and they will be shared to the police force, air force and aviation authorities.

There is no registration system for drones in Hong Kong for the time being, but the government said it would review the policy with references to overseas regulations like the one implemented in the US, Hong Kong Economic Journal reported earlier today.

Meanwhile, the head of DJI Wan Tao is a graduate of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He was appointed in 2015 by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying as a member of the newly established Advisory Committee on Innovation and Technology.

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