Christmas is getting closer. Many people started buying gifts for family and friends. Aynne Kokas, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, posted an opinion piece in Nikkei Asia. In the article, she warns that your Christmas products could create unexpected loopholes for your personal data.
She explained that most cheap products, including electronics like robots, are made in China. Also, Chinese law allows Beijing to obtain user information from domestic and foreign companies.
According to Kokas, Americans and Europeans are looking for high-quality, low-cost Christmas gifts after a year of high inflation and economic recession.
Most “Made in China” products fit into this bill.
Parents, schools, and consumer groups have paid attention to the most direct risks, such as electric leakage, toxic pigments, and the risk of young children accidentally swallowing the toys. But it is not enough. Most people are not aware of the hidden security risks going along with these toys.
Take the Chinese robot company UBTech as an example. It is a start-up firm with invested capital from two big Chinese groups, Tencent and Haier.
UBTech designs and manufactures various educational robot toys that have reaped awards in the United States. And once connected to the Internet, UBTech’s toys have even more features.
Robot toys can train algorithms, collect user interaction data, and develop people’s user habits. Connecting the robot to a smartphone, and that risky data transfer process will begin.
For the sake of national security, Chinese law requires businesses to provide user data to the government. Many manufacturers even keep the data on servers run by the government. Customers might not know about this. Even though the maker says the information is stored in the U.S., Chinese companies and the Chinese government can get user data if the customer agrees to the terms of service. Sadly, The U.S. currently has only a few rules about how user data can be exported.
Besides, many people do not know that DJI, the most popular drone brand in the world, is a Chinese company. Even though DJI stores data on Amazon’s network system, it still needs to kowtow to Beijing’s request whenever required.
Another example. Few people know that the Chinese Haier Group has bought the home appliance business of the American group G.E. As such, the home appliances with the brand name G.E. sold in the market are made in China.
In addition, most people are not aware that China-based company Bytedance owns TikTok.
Kokas said that even though a U.S. President has expressed concern about the security of user data, it’s hard to get rid of TikTok. Products from UBTECH, DJI, and Qiqi pose the same threats. She said that consumers should also put pressure on lawmakers to improve data security legislation and be careful with their home and mobile devices.