When customers buy a Tesla vehicle in China they get a free perk–government surveillance. That’s according to a new report from the AP, which reveals that the Chinese government requires all electric vehicle manufacturers in the country–not just Tesla, but BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, GM, a total of 200–to report a shocking amount of data on vehicles to the government. Specifically, they must report 61 data points, including the exact location of the vehicle, to local government monitoring centers, where a click of a button reveals location and vehicle data, including make and model, mileage, and battery charge.
Per the AP, Chinese officials claim the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, plan infrastructure, industrial development, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs. However, the data could be used as another means of government surveillance used to track the movements of citizens. While the carmakers say they are sending the data to comply with local laws, which apply only to alternative-energy vehicles, it’s usually done without car owners’ knowledge or consent.
Data also flows to a national monitoring center for new energy vehicles run by the Beijing Institute of Technology, which pulls information from more than 1.1 million vehicles across the country, according to the National Big Data Alliance of New Energy Vehicles, the AP reports.
China has been a booming customer for electric cars, and the government has set ambitious targets for electric vehicle sales in the country, striving for 20% of total sales by 2025. While it’s certainly good for the planet, in light of this report, it’s not hard to imagine a more nefarious reason for the government’s push.
We reached out to Tesla for comment and will update if we hear back.