Beijing has filled Britain’s homes with gadgets that China can use to spy on us – Daily Mail

Last summer, the grand opening of the newest outlet in London’s Westfield shopping centre was quite an event. Hundreds of people applauded the cutting of an orange ribbon and a queue of shoppers snaked around the block.

An orange double-decker bus toured London promoting the latest, orange-liveried addition to the sprawling temple of consumerism in Shepherd’s Bush.

So which retail giant was generating such a fuss? The answer is one you’ve probably never heard of. Nestled among big-name brands such as Guess, Pull & Bear and Currys PC World was the UK flagship store of Xiaomi.

The Chinese electronics company is intent on creating a ‘smart home’ for everyone, with a burgeoning range of devices connected to, and controlled by, smartphones and computers.

Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Xiaomi, speaks at a launch ceremony of Xiaomi Phone 2 in Beijing in this August 16, 2012 file photo

With Westfield — and similar malls up and down the country — crowded with shoppers snapping up TVs, sound systems and smartphones in the January sales, it’s time to take note of what such technology can do.

Xiaomi is one of a number of Chinese companies whose devices are commonly found in UK homes. But what innocent buyers don’t know is that, as well as providing entertainment, they are capable of tracking our behaviour.

Most of us find it alarming enough that internet service providers know what we buy and which websites we visit, yet we seem happy to give up this kind of personal data in return for the right to trawl through social media and buy goods online.

But what happens when our online lives are being monitored not by a company for marketing gain but by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose interest could be considerably more suspect?

This is a danger that increasingly concerns privacy campaigners as well as security experts. Yesterday the Government was warned that Chinese ‘Trojan Horse’ technology posed a ‘wide-ranging’ threat to the UK in a report by Ooda, a Washington-based security consultancy. Microchips embedded in Chinese-made cars, domestic appliances and even light bulbs can be ‘weaponised’ to spy on millions of people in Britain.

Earlier this month, the Government’s own surveillance watchdog, Professor Fraser Sampson, raised the alarm about the ‘digital asbestos’ of Chinese technology, as it emerged that more than a third of police forces in the UK are using CCTV cameras, drones and other technology from companies with close links to the CCP.

Beijing monitors the lives of its own citizens through electronic goods connected to the internet, such as TVs and smartphones.

What is to stop China doing the same to British householders?

Kayla Blomquist, director of the research institute Oxford China Policy Lab, warns that consumers are ‘unaware of potential privacy risks posed’ by Chinese smart home devices. ‘It is highly challenging, if not impossible, to distinguish between careless …….


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