Are Chinese electric cars coming to spy on us?

The Biden administration said this week it is investigating whether Chinese electric cars and other internet-connected vehicles could pose a national security threat on U.S. roads. Echoing U.S. concerns about other Chinese high-tech gear, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said these cars are like “smartphones on wheels.” “They collect enormous amounts of sensitive data on the drivers — personal information, biometric information, where the car is going,” she said, as quoted last week by The Associated Press. “So it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how a foreign adversary like China, with access to this kind of information on a massive scale, could pose a serious risk to our national security and the privacy of American citizens.”

President Joe Biden said his administration plans to avert “unnecessary” intelligence or economic risks before damage occurs. “China’s policies could flood our market with its vehicles, posing risks to our national security,” Biden said. “I won’t let that happen on my watch.” China’s Foreign Ministry said Chinese electric cars were becoming increasingly popular not because of “so-called unfair practices” but because market competition had encouraged innovation. Ciu Dongshu, secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, said it is “unfair to target cars from a specific country and impose restrictions only on them,” while electric cars and other high-tech cars made everywhere share the same kind of sensors.

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