The government on Wednesday constituted an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to study reports of surveillance of Indians including of political leaders, by Chinese firm Zhenhua Data and the External Affairs Ministry raised the issue with China’s Ambassador here, sources said.
The expert group will also evaluate the implications of these reports, assess any violations of law and submit its recommendations within 30 days. The sources said the government is deeply concerned with any report that suggests that foreign sources are accessing or seeking to access the personal data of Indian citizens without their consent.
“The Government of India takes very seriously the protection of privacy and personal data of Indian citizens. 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 30 days,” a source told ANI.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar communicated this decision to Congress MP KC Venugopal in response to demands from him and other MPs for protecting data of Indian leaders and others from spying by Chinese companies, sources said.
Venugopal had earlier today demanded a clarification from the Centre in Rajya Sabha on the issue of ‘Chinese surveillance on political leaders and key officials.’ The sources said that the Ministry of External Affairs raised the issue of Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. which was allegedly spying on prominent Indians, with the Chinese Ambassador today.
China said that Zhenhua is a private company and stated its position publicly, the sources added. Venugopal said in Rajya Sabha that as per media report, Zhenhua Data Information, a Shenzhen based technology company with links to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government is tracking over 10,000 Indians in its global database of foreign targets.
“This includes the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Opposition leader, Army Chief and MPs. This is a major area of concern. I want to know from the government if it has taken note of it. If so, what actions have been taken?” he asked.
The issue also figured in the Lok Sabha with Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury stating that several Indian leaders and people from other sections of society were under surveillance by China and urged the government to create “an impregnable firewall” to resist the “menacing syndrome” of “digital aggression”.