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China tech company monitors over 10,000 Indians -- PM Modi, Sonia Gandhi, CDS, CMs

BusinessToday.In     September 14, 2020

Amid the escalating tensions between India and China, a recent report has highlighted that a Shenzen-based technology company is monitoring over 10,000 individuals and organisations. The company with links to the Chinese government and Chinese communist party monitored these individuals and organisations in its global database of "foreign targets". Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. Limited has identified and monitored in real time a range of "targets" including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Singh Rawat, Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde among others.

Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, Uddhav Thackeray, Naveen Patanaik, Amarinder Singh are also on the list. Not only politicians and leaders, scientists, academicians, journalists, actors, sportspersons, activists are also being monitored, as mentioned in a report in The Indian Express. Even individuals accused of financial crime, corruption, terrorism are being monitored.

Zhenhua's list of those being monitored include, former chief ministers Ashok Chavan, Siddaramaiah, Raman Singh, RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant along with as many as 23 former and current Chief Secretaries.

India Today Group Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai, The Indian Express Chief Editor Raj Kamal Jha, The Hindu Group Chairman N Ravi, Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary, former media advisor in PMO Sanjaya Baru are some media personalities under monitoring. Sachin Tendulkar, film director Shyam Benegal, god-woman Radhe Maa, classical dancer Sonal Mansingh are also part of the list of people who are being monitored.

The daily stated that it investigated meta data from Zhenhua's operations using big-data tools to extract Indian entities from the massive pile of log files that constituted the company's Overseas Key Information Database (OKIDB). This database uses advanced language, targeting and classification tools to include hundreds of entries without any explicit markers.

The OKIDB also tracks relatives of leaders and personalities including PM Modi (wife Jashodaben), Sonia Gandhi (children Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi), Manmohan Singh (wife Gursharan Singh), Akhilesh Yadav (father Mulayam, wife Dimple, father-in-law R C Rawat, uncles Shivpal Singh and Ram Gopal) etc.

The daily stated that Zhenhua monitors 'person information and relationship mining' including networks among individuals, institutions and organisations. They look for information from web and social media platforms, track research papers and articles.

The database has entries from US, UK, Japan, Australia, UAE, Canada, Germany obtained through a network of researchers from an unnamed source connected to the company. The source shared data with multiple news organisations including The Indian Express.

The goal of this database is what it calls 'hybrid warfare' -- to use non-military tools for dominance or damage, subversion or influence. A questionnaire sent to the company did not elicit any response. "Sorry, these questions touch upon our trade secrets. It's not convenient to disclose," was the reply given to a correspondent who visited the Zhenhua's Shenzhen headquarters.

However, the Chinese Embassy told the daily that China has not and will not ask companies to collect or provide data, information and intelligence stored within other countries' territories through backdoor means that violate local laws.

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