Republican lawmakers say police need to stop using Chinese-made surveillance drones, including to enforce coronavirus social-distancing rules.
In a letter to federal officials, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida hinted there’s evidence drones made by DJI could send footage to China, where the company is based.
The NYPD uses at least 14 drones made by DJI, which is the world’s top commercial drone maker.
“Although federal law enforcement agencies have warned of potential information security concerns with DJI drones, it is not clear whether state and local law enforcement agencies are fully aware of these issues,” Jordan and Gaetz wrote to the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security.
A dozen other House Republicans signed the Jordan-Gaetz letters, which were first reported by The Daily Caller.
DJI is loaning drones to US police departments to help them surveil and punish citizens who aren’t complying with COVID-19 restrictions on freedom of association.
On April 7, the Elizabeth, NJ, police department wrote on Facebook that it would be using DJI drones to locate social gatherings and issue $1,000 fines.
“We were able to secure 5 DJI Mavic 2 UAV, on loan through DJI’s Public Safety Disaster Relief Program – thank you to Wayne Baker, the DJI Director of Public Safety Integration,” the police department wrote.
The Elizabeth cops noted that the “the new models are equipped with voice capabilities” and “will be around the City with an automated message from the Mayor telling you to STOP gathering, disperse and go home. Summonses HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE to be issued to those found in violation.”
Spokespeople for DJI and the NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Post, nor did Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage.
It’s unclear to what extent the NYPD is using drones to enforce social distancing rules. In April, the department denied that it was responsible for a drone that flew over the East River broadcasting a pro-social-distancing message. The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into the incident.
Concerns about Chinese authorities intercepting sensitive information also underpin a US campaign to discourage allies from using the telecom services of Chinese firm Huawei. US officials led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argue the non-transparency of Chinese authorities early in the COVID-19 outbreak exemplifies why not to trust China and its state-supported companies.
Republican lawmakers hold virtually no power in the Democratic-held House, but both Jordan and Gaetz are close to President Trump and their warnings may foreshadow an emerging GOP campaign to roll back use of DJI drones.
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