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Personal information of 2.4 million people is in a database at a Chinese tech company, which is reportedly associated with Chinese security services. The contents of the database have been leaked to international media, including ABC.

‘Hybrid warfare’

The database belongs to the company Zhenhua Data. The database mainly contains publicly available information, such as data shared on social media. This includes address details, photos and dates of birth. In some cases bank details and psychological profiles have been stored.

Cybersecurity company Internet 2.0 managed to retrieve data from about 250,000 people from the dataset. Information was found on 52,000 Americans, 35,000 Australians and nearly 10,000 British. They included politicians and celebrities such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and singer Natalie Imbruglia. It is not known whether there are also Dutch people in the database.

In some cases, not only famous persons but also family members have been mapped. In the dataset, individuals are rated with a score of 1 to 10, based on how important they are. It is not clear why this is happening. It is also unknown what the information is used for.

Zhenhua Data’s website was taken offline following questions from journalists. According to AFR stated on the company’s site that “social media can manipulate reality” and that in that way “a country can be weakened”. This form of influence was described by Zhenhua as “hybrid warfare” and something that is “cheaper than traditional warfare”.

The Guardian inquired about the database at Zhenhua Data. The company says that the news is “absolutely false” and indicates that it will respond more extensively at a later time.

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