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US police departments are using Chinese drones to enforce social distancing, raising security concerns

The company may be sending data back to China

A DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drone equipped with a thermal sensor used by municipal police in Treviolo for checking people's temperature is pictured in flight on April 9, 2020 in Treviolo, near Bergamo, Italy, during the country's lockdown. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

Police departments in the United States are using drones made in China to conduct surveillance and enforce social distancing policies, raising concerns about what the Chinese government-backed company that manufactures the drones may be doing with the data it gathers, according to the Daily Wire.

What's this about? State and local entities in at least 22 states are using drones manufactured and donated by DJI. Federal officials told The New York Times in 2017 that they have "moderate confidence" that the drones were "providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government."

The drones are used by police to monitor areas that aren't accessible by patrol cars. They reportedly don't take pictures or video, but rather are used to issue warnings to people out of compliance with social distancing rules, according to an MSNBC report.

The concerns are so significant that the U.S. Army ordered soldiers to stop using DJI consumer drones and software because of an "increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products," and the Interior Department grounded its fleet of DJI drones at the beginning of this year out of fear they might be utilized by the Chinese for spying.

The China problem: Under normal circumstances, a reliance on Chinese surveillance technology was problematic for government and law enforcement. That issue takes on new significance when that technology is being used to manage a virus outbreak that originated in China and was made worse by the Chinese government's attempts to cover it up.

"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," tweeted Florida Sen. Rick Scott. "Now we're using drones made by a Chinese company and backed by the CCP to enforce social distancing. This is crazy!"

The drones are reportedly being used by 43 agencies in the following states: Oregon, Washington, California, Texas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

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