China may be gathering a wide variety of data from China-made electronic appliances used by overseas consumers worldwide, research from the New Kite Data Labs suggested.
“China is really collecting data on really just anything and everything,” Balding told The Washington Times. “As a manufacturing hub of the world, they can put this capability in all kinds of devices that go out all over the world.”
Balding and Wu examined information gathered by a Chinese manufacturer of smart coffee machines to reach those findings. According to the researchers, this data included data on drink production, location and payment information.
Balding told The Washington Times that the data in question comes from smart home appliances manufacturer Kalerm in Jiangsu, China, which sells fully automated coffee machines.
However, the researcher did not specify how he obtained information about Kalerm’s data gathering.
Balding justified his withholding by stating that he did not want China to intercept his attempts to learn about its data harvesting, The Washington Times reported.
According to the New Kite Data Labs report, when Wu and Balding accessed a database maintained by Kalerm, they could see a host of information on the coffee machines the company sold.
This information included even sensitive information such as the locations, names and registered owners of the machines made and could be tracked by the Jiangsu-based manufacturer.
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Wu and Balding, however, conceded that the data they reviewed came from machines sold and used in China.
“Though all reviewed data comes from China-based machines, this company is known to sell models widely throughout the United States, Europe and other non-Chinese markets primarily through third-party distributors,” the New Kite Data Labs report stated.
“We found no evidence the company arranged for non-Chinese servers to host data to meet European GDPR regulations though they sell coffee makers that would utilize these smart functions and data storage needs,” Wu and Balding wrote in their report.
“Consequently, while we cannot say this company is collecting data on non-Chinese users, all evidence indicates their machines can and do collect data on users outside of Mainland China and store the data in China.”
Kalerm did not respond to The Western Journal’s request for comment.
The New Kite Data Labs report did not explicitly state if the Chinese government uses this information.
However, China is no stranger to harvesting data from people overseas.
A December 2021 report from The Washington Post found that the Chinese government has been offering local companies contracts to build software that would mine social media such as Facebook and Twitter to keep it in the loop on foreign targets.
Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. government even considered banning the popular social media app TikTok over data security and privacy concerns due to TikTok’s relationship with China.