Social media and other major US and other online data from the US military has been collected since 2017 by a Chinese technology company, which markets itself to the country’s military, government and commercial sector customers.
The findings come after the Australian Cyber Security firm discovered a copy of the database of Shenzhen Zenhua Data Technology, according to a Monday report by The Washington Post.
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The data cache, called the Overseas Information Database, allegedly provides insight into more than 2 million foreign political, military and business leaders – including at least 50,000 Americans.
It provides details about countries’ infrastructure, military deployment and public opinion analysis.
While there is no evidence that the software is currently used by the Chinese government, The Post noted that documents from Zenhua identified the company as a patriot, whose military is a “target customer” .
Zenhua’s list of corporate partners includes large data firms TRS, Huang, and state-owned enterprise subsidiary Global Tone Communication Technology.
Nevertheless, those who have reviewed the contents of the database have reported that its content includes raw information copied from US providers such as Factiva, LexisNexis and LinkedIn, and social media posts are widely accessible.
Zenhua’s digital trail reveals an ambivalence, however, if there is no agenda to learn about the workings of US government agencies and US companies based on an investigation of open-source data.
Robert Potter, founder of the Australia-based Internet 2.0 cyberspace company and independent researcher Christopher Belding, provided The Washington Post with an incomplete copy of the underlying database. The pair stated that they had downloaded and reconstructed about 1% of a terabyte of data.
Researchers and current and former US officials say the findings are consistent with a long-standing effort for China to expand its ability to gather information for strategic purposes – an effort first seen in 2018 When Pentagon officials discovered a fitness-tracking app, it was discovered that foreign locations have been discovered in the US whereabouts
In addition, Zhou Peng, one of the engineers at Zenhua, posted on LinkedIn that he was building a “demonstration system for military deployment simulations”.
According to corporate records, the company filed patents related to the exploitation of social media platforms, along with collecting news and information from late April to 2018 this year.
Zhenhua stated on its recent page China- revival.com, “Social media can manipulate reality and weaken the administrative, social, military or economic forces of a country and internal conflict, social polarization and Can give rise to fundamentalism. ”
On the company’s WeChat-based blog, an anonymous author posts intelligence about how social media affects US presidential campaigns and US-China relations.
The blogger wrote that China’s 2017 National Intelligence Act – which required Chinese organizations and citizens to assist in state intelligence operations according to the law – “promoted the healthy development of the intelligence industry.”
In 2015, the Chinese government released its first high-level strategy paper on big data and made it an important part of its Made in China 2025 Industrial Planning Plan.
While there is little information about Zenhua, the company operates out of both Shenzhen and Beijing. It was founded in 2017 and is owned by former IBM engineer Wang Xuefeng.
A representative of Zenhua told The Guardian on Monday that the report about the database was untrue.
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“Our data is all public on the Internet. We do not collect data. This is only a data integration. Our business model and partners are our trade secrets. There is no database of 2 million people, ”said the representative, Surya, who identified himself as the head of the business.
“We are a private company,” she said, denying any connection with the Chinese government or military. “Our customers are research organizations and business groups.”