According to the US newspaper, this Chinese computer data company has stored information collected from more than 2 million people, including at least 50,000 Americans and tens of thousands of people holding public positions, including military leaders.
According to the company’s marketing materials Washington Post obtained, Zhenhua stores such information in the main overseas information database (OKIDB), which the company intends to use to provide customers with detailed information about the characters foreign politics, military and business as well as details of a country’s “infrastructure and military deployments” as well as public opinion analysis.
The Guardian Internet 2.0, a cybersecurity consulting firm based in Canberra, Australia, could also catalog about 250,000 people from the OKIDB database after data from Zhenhua was leaked. .
According to the Washington Post, The OKIDB database includes, “Profiles and servicing records of the aircraft carriers and upcoming officers in the US Navy. The real-time tweets originate from overseas US military facilities. Profiles and family pedigree of foreign leaders, including their relatives and children. Profile of social media chats among Chinese followers in Washington ”.
However, the information collected in OKIDB is obtained from public accounts.
Robert Potter, co-founder of Canberra-based Internet 2.0 company, said Zhenhua’s public information gathering was particularly “ambitious” and that this information could prove “very valuable.” for an intelligence organization.
According to an image of OKIDB software collected by Potter, the user interface for the database showing tweets posted from US military facilities is placed on a map with a timestamp. A database search on former Navy Secretary Thomas Modly displays the names of his wife and four children, his educational background and private sector of operations.
While Zhenhua did not specifically state whether its OKIDB database is being used by the Chinese government, its marketing materials describe the company as a patriotic company with the military as a client. main target. Among its corporate partners, Zhenhua lists big data companies TRS, Huarong and subsidiary of state-owned enterprise Global Tone Communication Technology.
It is not clear what value Zhenhua’s customers could derive from the data, taken from public information.
“There may be gold in it, but this is not something useful enough for military or intelligence targeting,” a US government cybersecurity contractor told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity.
In the past, extensive data collection methods have raised concerns about the possibility of foreign powers gathering useful information from seemingly harmless data. In 2018, GPS-enabled fitness apps raised fears that foreign powers could analyze fitness applications to map the locations of government spies and military personnel working in the U.S. sensitive locations.
“We know that China is looking to drive mass data collection now, the ability to process and use them will follow in the future,” said Samantha Hoffman, a researcher at the Network Center. of the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy, told Washington Post: “This dataset proves that they’re targeting individuals and that social media is an important tool.”
Reply to your request for comment Guardian, Zhenhua’s representative said the news about the company was “seriously false.”
Representative Zhenhua said, “Our data is all public data on the internet. We do not collect data. This is just an integration of data. Our business model and our partner is our business secret. There is no database of 2 million people ”.
A representative of the data company also denied any direct relations with the Chinese government and said: “We are a private company. Our customers are research organizations and business groups ”.