MELBOURNE, Australia — News broke last week that a Chinese company with links to China’s Ministry of State Security has been secretly data-profiling at least 35,000 prominent Australians.
A leak revealed that the company, Zhenhua Data, has compiled records on at least 2.4 million people of “special interest” to China worldwide. The operation has “scraped” open-source material from social media as well as used confidential “bank records, job applications and psychological profiles” probably obtained from the dark web. Defense experts warn of a likely intention to “exploit and manipulate” individuals with the information.
The conspicuous Australian response to this gross violation of national privacy has been … “meh.”
Rather than righteous horror, the novelist John Birmingham expressed aloud on Twitter the silent anxiety of many Australians: not being considered prominent enough for profiling. The newspaper The Australian Financial Review correctly read the national room with the headline “If you’re not on the Zhenhua database, don’t be offended.” Frustrating reports offered mere handfuls of names: company directors, politicians, judges, defense and technology people. Academics. Some local criminals. And, uh, ’90s pop star Natalie Imbruglia.