Splainer

Monday, September 14 2020


Dive In

I was too excited to be worried; in fact, I drink cow urine because of Ayurvedic reasons every day, so that was okay!

That’s what Akshay Kumar said when he was asked about drinking elephant dung tea on the latest episode of ‘Into the Wild’ with Bear Grylls. Aww, maybe Akki can remake his old Brooke Bond ad: Swasth hai, Musst hai, indeed! Illustration: Parth Savla

Big Story

China’s big data offensive exposed

The TLDR: A Chinese company with links to Beijing's military and intelligence networks has been amassing a vast database of detailed personal information on millions of people around the world. The leaked information shows that at least 10,000 Indians were targeted by Zhenhua Data—ranging from the President and Prime Minister to military chiefs and even celebrities. The professor who leaked it claims that the evidence reveals China’s ambition to create a “global authoritarian techno surveillance state.”


What’s this database?

The company: Zhenhua Data is based in Shenzhen, China—and its primary clients are the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party. Established in 2018, it is part of the China Zhenhua Electronics Group—which in turn is controlled by state-owned China Electronic Information Industry Group (CETC), a military research company. Zhenhua CEO Wang Xuefeng is a former IBM employee who previously advocated waging "hybrid warfare" through manipulation of public opinion and "psychological warfare” on WeChat.

 

The database: Zhenhua’s core business is something called the Overseas Key Information Database, or OKIDB. It uses artificial intelligence to scrape and analyse personal data of millions of people around the world.


Tell me about the Indians in this database

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter 

  • No end to wildfires
  • Big confusion over TikTok
  • AstraZeneca is resuming its vaccine trials
  • Companies are insisting employees take 'wellness days'
  • A chocolate lover’s dream come true

 

Smart and Curious

  • Three excellent reads on the targeting of Rhea Chakraborty
  • A delightful take on our great love for mithai
  • A clear-eyed take on China’s strategy of wooing the Taliban
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