Zhenhua Data leak: China tech company gathers personal details of millions


September 15, 2020


Zhenhua Data leak: China tech company gathers personal details of millions

Information has been “swept up” in a database. (Photo: Alamy Stock)

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CANBERRA: A Chinese tech company with links to the country’s military and intelligence networks has gathered personal details of millions of people around the world, a trove of leaked data says.

The information has been “swept up” in a database compiled by Zhenhua Data, based in the south-eastern Chinese city of Shenzhen, the report said.

According to the report, about 2.4 million people have been included in the database, which has been assembled based on public open-source data such as social media profiles.

The Internet 2.0, a Canberra-based cyber-security consultancy said it recovered the records of about 250,000 people from the leaked dataset, including about 35,000 Australians, 52,000 Americans, and about 10,000 Britons.

The people include politicians, such as prime ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, their relatives, the royal family, celebrities and military figures, according to the Guardian.

The Guardian said it contacted a representative of Zhenhua for comment. The person, however, said that the report was seriously untrue.

The representative with surname Sun said that their data are all public data on the internet as they do not collect data.

“This is a data integration and our business model and partners are our trade secrets. There is no database of 2 million people,” the representative said, who identified herself as head of business.

She added that they are a private company and denied links to the Chinese government or military, according to the Guardian report.

The database was also leaked to American academic Christopher Balding, who was earlier based in Shenzhen and had returned to the US because of security concerns.

He shared the data with Internet 2.0 for recovery and analysis, according to the Guardian report.

Balding, in a statement, said the individual who provided the data put themselves at risk but had “done an enormous service and is proof that many inside China are concerned about Chinese Communist party authoritarianism and surveillance”.

The database reportedly includes profiles of some 793 New Zealanders.

Zhenhua’s Sun, however, said such a database, the Overseas Key Information Database, does exist.

Meanwhile, the ABC reported that Zhenhua had closely profiled Gilmour Space Technologies with every board member included in the database.

(With inputs from The Guardian)

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