Whether it be through TikTok, phone networks, social media, or hacking, China continues to spy on Americans. Now, according to a recent report, it’s time to add coffee makers to the list of devices through which consumers are being monitored. Yes, coffee makers. The foreign entity appears to be using the software in smart appliances connected to the Internet of Things to gather data on Americans. And unfortunately, it isn’t easy to know if your coffee machine is doing more than brewing a simple morning cup of joe.
Internet of Things
Technology integration into homes has brought convenience, joy, and increased productivity. But with the benefits come security concerns. The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a system in which many physical objects have been turned “smart” and are connected via the internet. They are equipped with sensors, transmitters, and software allowing someone to access an extensive network.
For example, home security systems, lights, air conditioning, heating, televisions, video doorbells, and intelligent virtual assistants like Alexa can be connected through your home IoT. However, because this helpful advancement is linked to the internet, a window is opened onto an unsuspecting homeowner’s life for the ill-willed looking to spy or steal your data.
According to a report released by New Kite Data Labs, the Chinese are not only concerned with obtaining “high-risk information” from important institutions or projects. They are executing broad information collection as well. The report shows that a Chinese coffee manufacturer which produces smart machines “collects data on a variety of subjects including drink production, location, payment information, and other data.” The evidence demonstrates that these machines manufactured in Jiangsu “can and do collect data on users outside of mainland China and store the data in China.”
Christopher Balding, who led the research, says, “The broad collection of data through devices with low levels of security and unclear data storage policies should raise concerns. China is interested in all nature of data whether it is military data from top-secret projects all the way through to your morning cup of coffee.” But what would China want with caffeine consumption information? Why do they care?
Well, coffee intake patterns aren’t the focus of the data collection. Your payment details, time records, and location are. This is just another way China can create or add to a “dossier” on every American, as Matthew Pottinger claims they already have. The former deputy national security advisor to President Trump testified to Congress that “the [Chinese Communist] Party now compiles dossiers on millions of foreign citizens around the world, using the material that it gathers to influence, target, intimidate, reward, blackmail, flatter, humiliate, and ultimately divide and conquer. Beijing’s stolen sensitive data is sufficient to build a dossier on every single American adult and on many of our children too, who are fair game under Beijing’s rules of political warfare.” Essentially, data from your coffee maker is just another tool in their toolbox of surveillance and a pathway to more information.
In conclusion of its findings, New Kite Data Labs shared that the “proliferation of IoT devices by consumers and businesses continues, the scope of data privacy concerns expands.” Their research focused on a smart machine manufactured in China, and unfortunately a majority of products used by Americans are made in that country, which widens security concerns. If China can collect data through coffee machines, how else might it be spying on Americans?