A new report shows the U.S. government is selling electronic devices on military bases to American service members and their families that are manufactured by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and can operate as surveillance equipment.
The National Pulse published findings this month that “smart televisions” now in the homes of service members and millions of other Americans can legally collect immense amounts of data and transmit it to CCP operatives working in mainland China.
Smart televisions are TVs that are made with an integrated internet connection and installed with web features that permit users to stream videos and music and browse the internet. Of course, the internet connection also allows information to be collected and transmitted back upstream.
TCL and Hisense are two Chinese brands that are now receiving attention for the information-collecting power of their smart televisions and the provisions of the fine print in their user agreements. Both manufacturers are owned by the Chinese government and under the direct control of the CCP.
The Department of Defense’s largest retail service on global U.S. military installation is the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). The AAFES website lists four TV models made by TCL and 14 made by Hisense for sale. The exchange service is managed by a board of directors who report to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force. The Navy Exchange Service Command also sells Hisense TVs along with sound bars.
Chinese smart TVs are now being described in the same way as the Chinese software app TikTok is – as a “weaponized military application.”
The privacy policies published by TCL and Hisense show that the devices they make are used to collect and transmit data. Both firms indicate that information they gather can be freely sent to servers stationed in China.
Former Trump administration Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in December 2020 that DHS had determined that TCL installed “backdoors” into all of its smart televisions that exposed end users to data collection and security breaches.
Smart TVs manufactured by Chinese companies are beginning to incorporate facial recognition and artificial intelligence image processing features that can even analyze ethnic features and detect emotional responses.
Federal spending records show that the Department of Defense has had a commercial relationship with Hisense subsidiaries going back to at least 2007.