Popular drone maker DJI has been accused of sharing critical US data with China in a memo from Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The memo, which dates back to August but began circulating online recently, said that the drone-maker has been spying for the Chinese government and sending back "critical infrastructure and law enforcement data".
The Los Angeles office of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement has expressed "moderate confidence" in its claim, which it said was based on "open source reporting and a reliable source within the unmanned aerial systems industry with first and secondhand access". However, the source was not identified in the report.
The memo read, "DJI's criteria for selecting accounts to target appears to focus on the account holder's ability to disrupt critical infrastructure".
Specifically, it noted the Chinese drone-maker could be targeting companies and institutions operating in media, railroad, farming, and federal law enforcement, and education, as well as facilities used for storing ammunitions and weapons.
The report also added that the applications that are used with DJI drones "automatically tag GPS imagery and locations, register facial recognition data even when the system is off, and access users' phone data" including e-mail addresses, full names, phone numbers, images, videos, and computer credentials.
All of this data is likely uploaded to Chinese cloud storage system. The data could be used by the Chinese government to launch cyber or even physical attacks against the United States, the memo suggests.
The Da Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Company or DJI, on the other hand, has totally refuted the claims, telling New York Times that the memo was based on false and misleading claims.
"Many of the allegations in the ICE report are obviously false," DJI said in a statement. "The claims... can be easily disproven with a basic knowledge of technology and the drone industry, or even a simple internet search."
"The allegations in the bulletin are so profoundly wrong as a factual matter that ICE should consider withdrawing it, or at least correcting its unsupportable assertions," the company added.