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Private firm; partners have no background in China military, govt: Zhenhua

Responding to reports by The Indian Express on how it was tracking 2.5 million individuals across the world, including over 10,000 in India, Zhenhua Data communicated through official sources in the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, and said it “does not offer any analytical services on the collected data”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 17, 2020 7:26:09 am
China spying, china,China is watching, Zhenhua, China surveillance, Indian Express investigation, Chinese military, Indian ExpressThe Indian Express had reported the firm’s clients included government and Chinese military, as claimed by the firm itself in its website. The reports over the last two days did not state that the owners/ partners have military/ government background.

Shenzhen-based technology firm Zhenhua Data has said it was privately owned and its partners did not have any background in the Chinese military or the Chinese government, and that its operation was not illegal or unreasonable.

Responding to reports by The Indian Express on how it was tracking 2.5 million individuals across the world, including over 10,000 in India, Zhenhua Data communicated through official sources in the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, and said it “does not offer any analytical services on the collected data”.

The Indian Express had reported the firm’s clients included government and Chinese military, as claimed by the firm itself in its website. The reports over the last two days did not state that the owners/ partners have military/ government background.

Zhenhua Data had not responded to a detailed questionnaire sent to its representatives on September 1. Responding on Tuesday, the firm did not deny that its clients include the government and the military explicitly, but said its “current clients include higher education institutions and think tanks” in China.

Express Investigation Part-4: Foreign secy, Niti CEO on list; Facebook bans Zhenhua Data

Without divulging any information on the nature of details sought by these clients, it said, “The Overseas Key Information Database (OKIDB) does exist, but not as magical as media reported, it merely connects individuals to the social media they use.”

“There is nothing about the operations that are illegal or unreasonable. We collect information from public sources that are accessible to everyone. But we do not get private information from confidential sources such as chat histories, psychological profiles or anything that the user chooses to conceal,” Sun, a representative of Zhenhua, said.

Explained | Why China harvests India data

The firm said all its partners have earlier been associated with the information technology business. “Zhenhua is a privately owned company established in April 2018. All of its partners are natural persons without backgrounds in the Chinese military or the government, and some were previously in the information technology business,” the representative said.

Explained | The nature of the cyber security threat from China

The firm said the database collected by it is “no different” from what is being collected in the United States. “Our data are all public data on the internet. This is just a data integration. Its operations, which involve collecting and ‘mobilizing’ data, are 100 percent from open sources with no data mining, and is no different from its Western peers, such as US public tracking platforms called EveryPolitician and GovTrack,” the representative said.

Read | After Express investigation, Govt sets up panel to study #ChinaWatching reports

In its website, the firm terms itself a pioneer in using big data for “hybrid warfare”.

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