Government needs proof of foul play to probe China company’s data mining
NEW DELHI: The government is unlikely to investigate Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co for data monitoring and profiling, unless it is revealed that the Shenzhen-based company used illegal means such as hacking or installing spyware to track high-profile Indians, two senior officials told ET.
On Monday, the Indian Express reported that Zhenhua Data had links to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party and was monitoring over 10,000 Indian individuals and organisations as part of its global database of “foreign targets”.
The government officials told ET that the profiling and data gathering seems to be from publicly available information and cannot, therefore, be called a “surveillance or an espionage” attempt.
“It seems like an effort towards statecraft and action cannot be taken till the time there are reports of a data breach by a platform or intermediaries, like (it) has happened in the past,” said one of the officials who did not wish to be identified.
The second official said that while its motive seemed to be questionable, there were several companies — both foreign and Indian — which are in the business of profiling individuals and businesses based on data that is in the public domain. “It is not yet proven that data was actually stolen by illegal means; if that’s the case then it merits an investigation, we will have to see if any illegality has been done,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
According to the Express report, those under the scanner include influential and important personalities – from President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress party interim president Sonia Gandhi and their families; Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, Ashok Gehlot and Amarinder Singh to Uddhav Thackeray, Naveen Patnaik and Shivraj Singh Chouhan; Cabinet Ministers Rajnath Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad to Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani and Piyush Goyal; Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Singh Rawat and at least 15 former Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force; Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and fellow judge AM Khanwilkar to Lokpal Justice PC Ghose and Comptroller and Auditor General GC Murmu, as well as top industrialists Ratan Tata and Gautam Adani.