After intruding into the Indian territory at the borders, China, which claims itself a pioneer in using big data for “hybrid warfare” is reportedly monitoring over 10,000 Indian individuals and organisations in its global database of “foreign targets”.
A Shenzen-based technology company is supposedly helping the Chinese Communist Party in the task. The company is mining data related to not just the influential individuals in the political and official establishments but Indians cut across disciplines. Those under surveillance include bureaucrats in key positions, judges, scientists and academicians, journos, actors, religious heads, sportspersons, even those accused of financial crime, corruption, terrorism and smuggling of narcotics, gold, arms or wildlife.
From President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi and their families, Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, Ashok Gehlot, 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 to nearly 15 former Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force, Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde and Lokpal Justice P.C. Ghose and Comptroller and Auditor General G.C. Murmu; start-up tech entrepreneurs like Nipun Mehra, founder of Bharat Pe and Ajay Trehan of AuthBridge, an authentication technology firm, to top industrialists Ratan Tata and Gautam Adani, everybody is being monitored.
The vigil on Indians assumes significance in the wake of an assertive China is locked in a simmering standoff with India along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and is pushing against many of its neighbours in the region. It is learnt that Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. Limited is involved in the task and the company claims it works with Chinese intelligence, military and security agencies.
A leading English daily, in the last two months, using big-data tools, investigated the meta data from Zhenhua’s operations to extract Indian entities from the massive dump of log files that constituted what the company called Overseas Key Information Database (OKIDB). This database which uses advanced language, targeting and classification tools, has hundreds of entries without any explicit markers.
It has entries from the USA, UK, Japan, Germany, Australia, Canada and the UAE. The data was obtained through a network of researchers from a source connected to the company based in Shenzhen City in Guangdong province, south-east China.
The source did not wish to be named for safety reasons.
Records show that Zhenhua was registered as a company in April 2018 and set up 20 processing centres across countries and regions. It counts the Chinese government and military among its clients.
OKIDB builds family trees
Investigation has shown that OKIDB tracks the relatives of, among others, Prime Minister Modi (wife Jashodaben); President Kovind (wife Savita Kovind); former PM Manmohan Singh (wife Gursharan Kaur and their daughters Upinder, Daman, Amrit); Sonia Gandhi (husband, the late Rajiv, son Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra); Smriti Irani (husband Zubin Irani); Harsimrat Kaur (husband Sukhbir Singh Badal, brother Bikram Singh Majithia and father Satyajit Singh Majithia); Akhilesh Yadav (father Mulayam, wife Dimple, father-in-law R.C. Rawat, uncles Shivpal Singh and Ram Gopal).