There is a debate about Chinese products in the U.S. that has yet to reach the public square, as far as national security is concerned, and that's the automobile industry. We already know that companies such as AT&T and Verizon aren't putting Chinese equipment in charge of handling our country's data flows: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-18/u-s-said-to-prepare-trump-order-to-restrict-chinese-telecoms
Telecom switches, routers, broadband data equipment and related items from China are therefore kept away from the U.S. data and telecom networks. The point is to make sure that Chinese hardware and software are not going to collect U.S. information, which could become valuable in a war -- whether the cyber-version or the "hot" version.
But do you know what other item is starting to look like one big data-gathering device? The automobile.
In the new cars that are coming out now and increasingly in the next few years, there are cameras and microphones inside the car. Outside the car, cameras, radars and LIDARs map every millimeter of the environment around the vehicle.
Therefore, the car will soon know everything you say in the car. It will listen to your every breath, and it will see precisely how your eyes react when you hear and say anything. Everything around the car will be mapped in detail.
Think of the car as a land-based drone that could weigh 5,000 lbs instead of 5 lbs. It is a giant probe into the society, placing it within yards of almost every residential and commercial building in America. Who parks at the CIA and the Pentagon, at what time, who else is in/nearby the car, and where does it go before and after? The automaker will know.
It didn't use to be that way, of course. Cars didn't use to have cameras, microphones and modems. No data was collected, and no data was transmitted. The car didn't invade your privacy anymore than your shirt or a toothpick. It was a "dumb" passive object. Nothing to worry about.
Going forward, the car is quickly starting to look more like a piece of telecom equipment that the Chinese would like to sell into AT&T (T - Get Report) and Verizon (VZ - Get Report) . Just imagine that a member of the U.S. military buys a car from a Chinese automaker that shares the data with the Chinese military. They would know everything about this person -- and everyone with whom he interacts.
Of course, half the battle is already won (or lost, depending on your perspective) if said U.S. military member comes in contact with this car, either through a friend or random passerby on the city street. How would anyone really know what the exposure was, even after the fact?
This has not been a problem in the auto industry yet, for another reason: Hardly any cars are exported from China to the U.S. Until recently, only a couple of GM cars (Cadillac CT6 and Buick Envision) and a couple of Volvo cars were built in China and sold in the U.S.
I don't know whether those handful of cars came close to constituting much U.S. national security risk, or whether the products were tested to scan for listening devices. I am assuming that they did not have a problem.
However, in future years there are all sorts of cars that may be imported into the U.S. from China. Brands may include not only the likes of General Motors (GM - Get Report) , but one suspects that eventually home-grown Chinese car companies would like to export to the U.S.
That's no different than Huawei and ZTE wanting to export from China to the U.S. The U.S. rejected them, on urgent national security grounds. Given that cars going forward will share many of these technological characteristics -- and add many more -- will this mean that the U.S. will ban Chinese cars too?
Let's say that the Chinese military had a back door into your car's software and hardware. Would you feel comfortable with that? Would a U.S. Army general be allowed to drive a car like that? Would he even be allowed to go near a car like that?
Sooner than later, this debate will start. I had better not be the first person to figure this out.