A Shenzen-based technology company with links to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party, which is keeping tabs on over 10,000 Indian individuals and organisations in its global database of “foreign targets", has said it is merely using public information on the internet for “data integration", according to Chinese Embassy sources.
An investigative report by The Indian Express has detailed how the company has been keeping tabs on individuals including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Cabinet ministers like Rajnath Singh and Nirmala Sitharaman and at least 15 former Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force among others.
Sources quoted a representative of the company on Tuesday as saying that “the relevant reports on their company are seriously untrue".
“Our data are all public data on the internet. This is just data integration. Its (the company’s) operations, which involve collecting and ‘mobilising’ data, are 100% 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," said the representative.
The representative denied that what the company was doing was “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," sources quoted the representative as saying. “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."
After the report was made public, Indian agencies had said they were “not surprised" by the expose on the ‘hybrid war’ by China.
Indian officials had said that the government was aware of data mining by Chinese companies and its misuse by Chinese agencies. “The decision to ban Chinese apps was taken because of this misuse. Indian agencies flagged how common Indians unknowingly were contributing to the data bank of Chinese companies, which in turn was being shared with Chinese Communist Party and agencies," an official had said.
The officials had also acknowledged that the data for VIP Indians like Prime Minister, President and CJI, even if collated from open source, could be used damagingly by an enemy nation and its agency.