Tesla quick to show support for China’s new data collection rules after sharp decline in April sales

Tesla says on microblogging platform Weibo that it supports the standardisation of the car industry in China. The US electric vehicle maker faced a backlash after a Model 3 owner staged a protest at the Shanghai Auto Show. — SCMP

After suffering a huge decline in sales in China last month following a series of publicity crises, US electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla took to social media on May 12 to voice its support for newly proposed government rules on how data can be collected in the country.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s central Internet regulator, released a set of draft rules on car data regulation on its website on May 12 that include provisions meant to strengthen personal data protection and protect national security.

Carmakers will have to inform and seek customers’ approval before collecting data such as geographical locations, biometric features, driving habits, and audio and video records of their journeys, according to the proposed regulations.

The information collected should be legally stored within China’s border, the rules said. Carmakers will have to get permission from Chinese regulators and pass the relevant security assessments to provide “important and private” data to foreign entities.

The CAC is currently canvassing public opinion on the rules.

People walk by a Tesla Model 3 car during a media preview of the Shanghai Auto Show on April 19, 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE

The draft rules come less than two weeks after the National Information Security Standardisation Technical Committee (NISSTC), a Chinese government-affiliated standards-setting body, released its own proposed rules on networked cars. They include a provision requiring car companies that send encrypted data overseas to provide Chinese authorities with decrypted user data.

The CAC’s draft rules also include a similar provision.

Both sets of proposed rules are part of Beijing’s ongoing push to better protect the vast amount of data that are being collected by the country’s smart vehicles.

Soon after the CAC released its draft rules, Tesla expressed support on Chinese social media.

“We will support the industry to move further towards standardisation and jointly promote technological innovation,” Tesla said in a post on microblogging platform Weibo, along with a link to the CAC statement. “We welcome everyone to provide suggestions to promote the healthy and orderly development of the automotive industry.”

Tesla suffered a social media backlash in China last month, triggered by a protest against the company during the Shanghai Auto Show, staged by a woman whose Model 3 crashed on a highway while driven by her father. It came weeks after Chinese authorities grilled Tesla executives over the safety of the EV maker’s cars.

The company, which announced a price increase for the Model Y in March, saw its April sales decline by nearly 10,000 units from the previous month, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association. – South China Morning Post

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