Talking Points

Setting the Record Straight on DJI Drone Data Security

It is disappointing to hear that some people – including the author of a recent White House op-ed – are deliberately spreading falsehoods about what our products do, simply because DJI is based in China. If the U.S. wants to spur domestic competition, the White House should make its case on the merits of technology standards for drone use. Instead, this op-ed makes spurious and false claims about DJI that are grounded in anti-China hysteria, not facts.

Drone technology is transforming America for the better, creating new jobs and businesses, helping companies do their work faster and safer for less cost, and providing government agencies with new aerial capabilities. DJI is proud to have driven this drone revolution by rapidly innovating the best technology at affordable prices, helping us become a reputable and top-selling drone maker in America.

Over time, DJI drones have created an ecosystem of American jobs for pilots, content creators and developers. We have also ignited the curiosity of a generation of students, and even saved lives across the country. We are always amazed at what people have done with our products, and we know it is just the start of what drone technology will do.

To set the record straight, DJI has always prioritized protecting customer data and always will. DJI products designed for government use have been independently reviewed and tested by U.S. cybersecurity consultants, U.S. federal agencies and the Idaho National Laboratory, which recently issued a report for the Department of Homeland Security.

Our drones are designed so the people who use them don’t have to share any of their operational data with us. Contrary to claims in this op-ed, our drones do not automatically send photos or videos to DJI, or to anyone else. Government agencies, critical infrastructure operators and security-conscious companies all across America know this, which is why they have successfully developed operating protocols to ensure their photos, videos, and flight data never leave their control.

It is essential that we correct the White House op-ed’s many claims made against DJI. It assert that “cookies” from our website are somehow nefarious when almost every company uses them. It implies tagging photos with GPS coordinates is suspicious, even though every modern camera does this, including the ones built in smartphones. It raises concerns about product terms and conditions that are common across many tech companies. Moreover, it claims DJI drones have facial recognition technology, which is completely untrue.

The White House op-ed also implies that DJI improperly cut prices to undermine its competitors and expand its market share. However, a U.S. federal court rejected similar allegations earlier this year, ruling that DJI has been “fully consistent with robust competition in a growing market.” The op-ed also claims DJI pushed competing American drone company 3DR out of the hardware business and obtained access to its proprietary Site Scan software, something that is entirely untrue. 3DR founder and CEO Chris Anderson has said, “I think we just got beaten fair and square” – and his company never transferred technology to us.

As a lawyer and longtime drone enthusiast – and as one of the dozens of American citizens working in DJI’s U.S. offices – I understand the White House has a legitimate interest in protecting data security in sensitive drone missions. But basing false allegations simply on a product’s country of origin is the wrong way to do it. It’s almost impossible to buy a tech product without some components coming from China, and focusing on that ignores data risks from many other sources. That’s why the White House’s own Office of Management and Budget has reportedly concluded that Congress should abandon a country-of-origin approach to this issue and instead set technology standards for sensitive drone missions.

DJI doesn’t design or market drones to the U.S. military, and we don’t plan to. For nearly five years, I have witnessed internally how this company has relentlessly innovated to make drones that empower American entrepreneurs, pilots, companies, and government agencies to do amazing things. And although DJI did not design its products at the outset with sensitive applications in mind, once customers started to use them in those applications, I have seen DJI go to great lengths to add features and protections for those uses. As with our other innovations, those efforts are ongoing, do not end at a specific moment in time, and are driven by input from our customers, which we welcome.

I am always happy to have a serious and substantive conversation about drone data security. Despite some of the most outlandish claims against us, I still hope that conversation can be based on facts.

Topics: Talking Points

Brendan Schulman

Brendan Schulman

Former VP of Policy & Legal Affairs at DJI

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