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US military selling troops Chinese tech that China could use for spying

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
October 18, 2022

Smart TVs that are potentially open to Chinese spying are being sold by the U.S. military to military personnel.

Popular, affordable smart TVs by state-owned Chinese manufacturers like TCL and Hisense could give the Chinese Communist Party a window into the homes of U.S. troops and civilians alike, the National Pulse first reported.

Four TCL smart TVs and 13 by Hisense are sold to military personnel by the Defense Department’s largest exchange service. The Navy exchange service offers eight Hisense TVs and three of its sound bars.

TCL, which claimed it shipped 189 million smart TVs in 2021, “expos[ed] users to cyber breaches and data exfiltration” by adding “backdoors into all of its TV sets,” then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said that year.

Hisense’s privacy policy directly states that your data could be sent to the People’s Republic of China. TCL’s privacy policy also states that personal information may be transferred to countries that “might not guarantee the same level of protection as your country does.” 

TVs by Skyworth, another Chinese maker on the rise in the west, have been alleged to harvest data from nearby Wi-Fi networks.

China is already alleged to have surveilled tens of thousands of U.S. phone users in the Caribbean.

The country is extending its domestic mass surveillance system – already prevalent in cities – to rural areas in a move the state says is targeted at crime, but others fear could enable government crackdown, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The rural program has repurposed Android, a mobile operating system with an offshoot used on many smart TVs, for “full domain coverage, full network sharing, round-the-clock and remote-controlled video surveillance for policing purposes,” one citizen journalist told Apple Daily.

American technology likely continues to partly power China’s surveillance state, according to a 2021 report, and almost $2.5 million flowed from U.S. taxpayers to Hisense and Skyworth in the Paycheck Protection Program, the National Pulse revealed. 

A Hisense subsidiary in New Jersey has gotten hundreds of thousands from the Department of Defense, including for an inter-satellite communications transmitter and a contract with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, the National Pulse also reported.