Does China Think Tesla Is Spying on Them?

Allison Stone
Updated on Jul 10, 2022 · 4 min read
Could
Tesla
drivers be unwittingly gathering surveillance data while driving? It would appear that the Chinese government seems to think so, as
electric cars
have been banned from driving near several government-related events, military complexes, and other parts of the country. 
According to
Fortune
, local police were instructed to prohibit Tesla vehicles from entering the Beidaihe district of Hebei province for two months in anticipation of the Chinese Communist Party’s annual summer retreat. 
While local officials declined to specify why these cars were banned, the retreat is an extremely secretive, high-security event where even the exact dates of the conference are kept under wraps.
This is just the latest in a series of restrictions surrounding Tesla-made vehicles, prompting experts to probe further as to why Chinese officials see the cars as a potential security risk. Car ownership super app
Jerry
explores the issue further. 

Tesla’s tenure in China

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the recent suspicion towards Tesla is what a swift turnaround the brand has had in the
EV capital of the world
Just a few years ago, Tesla was welcomed to China with open arms as the American Multinational corporation reached an agreement with Chinese authorities to open a
Gigafactory
in Shanghai. 
The Shanghai factory, which finished construction in August of 2019, was the brand’s first production facility outside of the U.S. and was substantially subsidized by the Chinese government. 
Tesla was also granted a license to operate as a wholly-owned foreign enterprise within China, rather than partnering with a local manufacturer. 
The Shangai factory is Tesla’s most productive plant worldwide, and China is its fastest-growing market. Tesla even pulled forward as the leading EV maker in China by sales in March of 2022 but suffered a major drop following a long COVID lockdown in April. 
So why are Chinese officials now becoming suspicious of the popular electric cars? Tesla’s onboard cameras appear to be the culprit. 

What do Tesla’s onboard cameras do?

In addition to being restricted from entering the Beidaihe district of Hebei province, Tesla vehicles have also been banned from entering Chinese military complexes. 
Reportedly, police officers herded Tesla vehicles away from Chinese President Xi Jinping and some employees of state-owned industries are prohibited from driving the cars. 
The onboard external cameras are intended to provide drivers with sensory assistance such as parking or lane-changing maneuvers. They are also used in Tesla’s autopilot mode. 
It seems that Chinese officials fear that images and video footage gathered by Tesla vehicles could be a privacy risk, although Tesla CEO Elon Musk has denied any claims of such. 
In order to abide by Chinese government laws, Tesla even announced that all data collected by its vehicles would be stored exclusively on Chinese servers. 
In the U.S., Tesla has had some security problems of its own. In March of 2022,
Bloomberg Law
reported that Tesla was sued in several states for violating biometric data privacy laws. 
As video surveillance, facial recognition, and other technology became more mainstream within the automotive industry, it does raise concerns about data privacy and personal security. 
Only time will tell just what the automotive data security of the future will look like, but it is ultimately up to consumers to decide if the convenience outweighs the risks. 

How to save money on car insurance

While a lot is kept under wraps as to why China is banning Teslas from entering certain zones, you shouldn’t be suspicious of your car insurance carrier or how much you could be saving.
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