Chinese database Zhenhua denies illegal use of Australians' data
Chinese database Zhenhua denies illegal use of Australians’ data
Published: Sep 14, 2020 05:55 PM

People are seen in a store in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Aug. 31, 2020. A lockdown in the Australian state of Victoria aimed at stopping a COVID-19 outbreak came under scrutiny on Monday, with critics calling for a clearer plan to end the restrictions which are said to be weighing on the nation's economic recovery. Victoria recorded 73 new infections on Monday following a month of Stage 4 lockdowns in capital city Melbourne, down from a peak of over 700 in early August. (Photo by Bai Xue/Xinhua)

Chinese database Zhenhua Data has denied collecting Australian information from confidential documents, and said it is only mobilizing and compiling data from readily open sources. 

It also said recent media reports on the operations are "highly sensationalized" and is a deliberate attack on the company.

The Shenzhen-based company was reported to have collected information, including sensitive and private data such as psychological profiles of more than 35,000 Australian people, sourced from public documents. The company is also said to have ties with the Chinese military. 

However, when reached by the Global Times on Monday, a company representative said the allegation is a "pure exaggeration", and its operations, which involve collecting and "mobilizing" data, are 100 percent from open sources with no data mining, and is no different from its Western peers, such as US public tracking platforms called EveryPolitician and GovTrack. 

"There is nothing about the operations that are illegal or unreasonable," the company representative surnamed Sun told the Global Times. "We collect information from public sources that are accessible to everyone. But we do not get private information from confidential sources such as chat histories or anything that the user chooses to conceal."

Information published on public platform may indicate given implied consent, as per the civil and data law in China, unless individuals give clear objection or when the disclosure substantially harm their interests, a lawyer surnamed Shi told the Global Times under anonymity.

Sun denied reports that Zhenhua collects private information such as psychological profiles. She also said that the allegation of 35,000 entries involving Australian people is incorrect, although she declined to provide a specific number. 

Zhenhua is a privately owned company established in April 2018. All of its partners are natural persons without backgrounds in the Chinese military or the government, and some were previously in the information technology business, according to Sun.

Sun says the company's current clients do include government organizations including higher education institutions and think tanks in China, but it does not offer any analytical services on the collected data. 


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