WASHINGTON, D.C. – If you’ve purchased a Happy Meal from McDonald’s in the last twelve months, chances are the Chinese government is monitoring and recording your daily movements. According to the Department of Justice, Chinese intelligence agents planted an estimated fifty million radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in products bound for the United States last year.
“These chips have the ability to track an individual’s movements in real-time and transmit uninterrupted audio and – in some cases – video back to their source,” U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch said during a press briefing on Friday. “Following a six-month joint investigation with the Department of State, we were able to determine the source of these chips originates at the Chinese Ministry of State Security.”
Surprisingly, China has not denied the allegations. Hong Lei, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, told The Washington Post that China regularly inserts RFID chips into exports bound for the United States. “It’s standard practice,” Hong said. The spokesman later added that the chips allow Chinese businesses to better analyze consumer trends overseas. “There’s nothing sinister about it.”
Hong said his country’s intelligence apparatus allocates approximately one hundred million RFID chips to Chinese businesses every year. “The data they collect is transmitted to business owners and entrepreneurs via our [spy] satellites,” Hong explained, further stating that Chinese intelligence analysts do not typically collect or review the data. “Only in extreme circumstances,” he said.
U.S. officials became aware of the chips’ existence in mid January after an RFID chip embedded in a Chinese-made calculator emitted an electromagnetic pulse and subsequently shut down power to a maximum security prison in Maryland. As a result of the power outage, twelve inmates – all of whom were serving life sentences – escaped. All but three have been apprehended.
In an interview with Real News Right Now, Mr. Hong reluctantly admitted that RFID chips developed prior to 2014 “were prone to error.” However, Hong said China has recently released a next-generation RFID chip which contains a built-in self-destruct mechanism. The instrument initiates a “small” controlled explosion meant to disable the device while minimizing data loss.