Chinese surveillance

India needs to be wary of cyber threat

Chinese surveillance

Photo for representational purpose only

INDIA can no longer afford to gloat over its ‘surgical strike’ on apps with Chinese links. An international exposé by several newspapers has revealed how insidiously China is taking the cyber route to keep prominent Indian citizens under surveillance. According to a news report, Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co Limited, a firm associated with the Chinese Communist Party, has been using artificial intelligence and big data-crunching techniques to track the digital footprint of thousands of Indians, including politicians, defence experts and leading scientists. The Overseas Key Information Database developed by the company records as well as monitors the online activity of individuals across various social media platforms. In short, this hi-tech avatar of the Orwellian Big Brother is closely watching the who’s who of India.

It’s obvious that merely a keen interest in Indian affairs is not propelling this humongous exercise. Offering ‘threat intelligence services’, Zhenhua is busy building a ‘relational database’ which records and describes associations between individuals, institutions etc. The interpretation and analysis of data undoubtedly serve strategic purposes.

In a technology-driven world, information is ammunition. And China can’t have enough of it, especially when the data pertains to a formidable neighbour that is capable of protecting its territory from intruders. The large-scale data mining, which reeks of snooping, is a wake-up call for India, which needs to look beyond military, diplomatic and economic options to counter the Chinese threat. Citing concerns over citizens’ privacy and national security, the Indian government has banned over 200 apps in less than three months. But that is merely a drop in the ocean when we look at the larger picture. Chinese companies call the shots in India’s smartphone sector and the scenario is not going to change anytime soon. What India can do urgently is to incorporate stringent provisions in the Information Technology Act to curb third-party collection and misuse of data. ‘Know thy enemy,’ said Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu. It’s time India does the needful to pre-empt China’s nefarious moves on the ground and in cyberspace. 

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