Taking up the matter with the Chinese Ambassador, the Government has set up an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to study the revelations in China Watching, an investigation by The Indian Express, that a Shenzen-based company, with links to the Chinese government, is monitoring over 10,000 Indian individuals and entities.
The “targets,” as the ongoing investigation has revealed, include President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, key Opposition leaders and men and women from across a range of disciplines, politics, legislature, science and strategy to business, judiciary and the media. The expert committee, led by Lt Gen (Retd) Rajesh Pant, India’s chief coordinator on cyber security, will evaluate the “implications” of the digital surveillance by Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. Limited and “assess any violations of law and submit its recommendations within thirty days.”
“The Government of India takes very seriously the protection of the privacy and personal data of Indian citizens. It is deeply concerned at any report that suggests that foreign sources are accessing or seeking to access the personal data of our citizens without their consent. The Government has constituted an Expert Committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to study these reports, evaluate their implications, assess any violations of law and submit its recommendations within thirty days,” Jaishankar wrote.
Top sources say that the key driver behind the decision to take note of this revelation is that the issues it raises, of data security and privacy, are similar to the ones that prompted the government’s ban on Chinese apps. “What we have come to know of Zhenhua’s project validates our concerns about Chinese mobile apps,” said an official.
“Our Embassy in Beijing also raised it with the Foreign Ministry of China. The Chinese side conveyed that Shenzen Zhenhua is a private company and had stated its position publicly. On their part, the Chinese Foreign Ministry maintained that there was no connection between the company concerned and the Chinese government,” Jaishankar said.