KEY POINTS

  • The biodata of 80% of Americans may have been compromised
  • Biodata can determine a person's health 
  • China had previously been accused of breaching a person's privacy and collecting DNA 

The Chinese government may have stolen personal data from 80% of American adults, according to a “60 Minutes” report. 

Bill Evanina, former director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, on Sunday appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes when he warned that Beijing is attempting to collect and exploit Americans’ health care information, including their DNA. 

According to the intelligence official, BGI Group — the world’s largest biotech firm — approached Washington and five other states with offers to build and run state-of-the-art coronavirus testing labs. The Chinese firm also promised to “provide technical expertise, high throughput sequences” and “make additional donations” to the states. 

The offer raised suspicions, prompting Evanina to issue warnings to the states against taking up BGI Group’s proposal. 

“Foreign powers can collect, store and exploit biometric information from covid tests,” the advisory read. “Knowing that BGI is a Chinese company, do we understand where that data’s going?”

Evanina also claimed that China used “less-than-honorable” methods to steal data from foreign countries, including hacking health care companies and technology — such as smart homes, sensors and 5G networks—in the U.S. to collect Americans’ personal data.  

“Current estimates are that 80% of American adults have had all of their personally identifiable information stolen by the Communist Party of China,” he said. 

The information collected from various technology, when combined with a person’s biodata, can be used to bypass doctors and help Chinese companies create a monopoly over treatments and medicine that could improve a person’s health. 

The same system has allegedly been used by Chinese authorities to identify and suppress the Uighur Muslims. Under the guise of free check-ups, Chinese officials are collecting DNA that could help them target other family members and improve their facial recognition software. 

In July 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce sanctioned two Chinese subsidiaries of BGI Group for its involvement in the repression of the Uighurs.

BGI Group later released a statement that dismissed Evanina’s claims and denied any of the alleged motivations. 

“The notion that the genomic data of American citizens is in any way compromised through the activities of BGI in the U.S. is groundless,” BGI said in the statement

Beijing has previously been accused of breaching a person’s privacy. In July 2020, The New York Times reported that police in China were using U.S. equipment to collect blood samples from Chinese men and boys in an effort to build a genetic map of China’s male population. 

Thermo Fisher, an American company, helped manufacture and provide Chinese police with testing kits needed to collect the samples.   Chinese and US national flags flutter at the entrance of an office in Beijing in January 2020 Chinese and US national flags flutter at the entrance of an office in Beijing in January 2020 Photo: AFP / WANG ZHAO