An MSNBC segment from late last week sparked controversy after it shined a light on a program that some localities across the U.S. are participating in that uses Chinese-made drones to monitor American citizens in an effort to enforce social distancing.
“The drones make it easier for police to see into certain areas where access by patrol cars is more difficult,” MSNBC reported. “That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and in backyards. Failure to comply could lead to a summons or a thousand dollar fine.”
On the issue of privacy, Elizabeth Democrat Mayor J. Christian Bollwage says, “If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information that the drones are sending.”
“The drones donated by DJI, a Chinese company, have gone to 43 agencies in 22 states, all to help enforce social distancing rules,” MSNBC continued. “Authorities say the drones aren’t taking pictures or collecting evidence. It’s a high-tech warning against a deadly virus.”
"The drones, donated by DJI, a Chinese company, have gone to 43 agencies in 22 states, all to help enforce social distancing rules."
US using Chinese drones to spy on and lecture Americans about a virus caused by communist China
Oh, and DJI "may be sending data to China" pic.twitter.com/LqH6VzonzH
— Elizabeth Harrington (@LizRNC) April 17, 2020
The New York Times reported in 2017 that federal law enforcement officials said that they had “moderate confidence” that DJI drones and software were “providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.”
The Times reported that the Chinese company denied the allegations.
“The I.C.E. memo focused on the drones used by companies and institutions, not the drones flown by hobbyists in the United States and elsewhere,” The Times reported. “D.J.I. dominates the overall drone market, with a nearly two-thirds share in the United States and Canada, according to Skylogic Research, a drone research firm.”
In January of this year, the Times reported that the Interior Department had grounded “its entire fleet of drones out of concerns that Chinese parts in them might be used for spying.” The Interior Department had been using drones from DJI.
The U.S. Army has also ordered soldiers to stop using the consumer version of the drones, according to Defense One:
The U.S. Army has ordered troops to stop using consumer drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI, according to an Aug. 2 memo seen by Defense One and confirmed by two Army officials.
“Cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow on direction,” reads the memo from Lt. Gen. Joseph H. Anderson, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for plans and operations.
Why? The memo cited “increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) responded to the segment by writing on Twitter: “Think about this for a second. This virus originated in Communist China and the Chinese Communist Party’s lies helped it spread around the world. Now we’re using drones made by a Chinese company and backed by the CCP to enforce social distancing. This is crazy!”
Think about this for a second. This virus originated in Communist China and the Chinese Communist Party’s lies helped it spread around the world.
Now we’re using drones made by a Chinese company and backed by the CCP to enforce social distancing. This is crazy! https://t.co/pJDGoviRis
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) April 18, 2020
A map provided by DJI claimed that the drones were being used by different state and local entities in the following states:
- South Dakota
- South Carolina
- New Jersey
- New York