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Electric cars feed instant info to the Chinese

GLOBAL carmakers are feeding real-time location and other data from electric vehicles to the Chinese government.

More than 200 car makers selling electric vehicles in China — including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Mitsubishi — send 61 data points to government-backed monitoring platforms under rules set up in 2016. This generally happens without the owners’ knowledge.

Chinese officials say the data is used to improve safety, planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programmes. But critics say it exceeds those goals and could be used for surveillance. VW’s head in China, Jochem Heizmann, could not guarantee the data was not used for surveillance but stressed it keeps personal data secure.

‘There is not a principle difference between sitting in a car and being in a shopping mall and having a smartphone with you,’ he said.