Foreign Policy published a piece today outlining the ways in which China’s government uses the resources of its biggest tech firms to gather data on foreigners including Americans. In China, the government has complete control of every aspect of life including multi-billion dollar corporations. The CCP leverages that control to effectively make the corporations an unofficial part of the state’s intelligence services.
In the final years of the Obama administration, national security officials had directed U.S. spy agencies to step up their intelligence collection on the relationship between the Chinese state and China’s private industrial behemoths. By the advent of the Trump era, this effort had borne fruit, with the U.S. intelligence community piecing together voluminous evidence on coordination—including back-and-forth data transfers—between ostensibly private Chinese companies and that country’s intelligence services, according to current and former U.S. officials. There was evidence of close public-private cooperation occurring on “a daily basis,” according to a former Trump-era national security official. “Those commercial entities are the commercial wing of the party,” the source said. “They of course cooperate with intelligence services to achieve the party’s goals.”…
In what amounts to intelligence tasking, China’s spy services order private Chinese companies with big-data analytics capabilities to “condition”—that is, work up or process—massive sets of information, including from hacks like the massive breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), that have intelligence value, according to current and former officials. This data then promptly flows back to Chinese state entities, they say.
“Just imagine on any given day, if NSA and CIA are collecting information, say, on the [Chinese military], and we could bring back seven, eight, 10, 15 petabytes of data, give it to Google or Amazon or Microsoft, and say, ‘Hey, condition this on the weekend. We want all these analytics; get it back to us next week.’ That’s what they do. They have Alibaba and they have Baidu. We don’t have that,” a current senior intelligence official said.
The collaboration isn’t always after the fact. According to an unnamed former CIA agent, Chinese tech company Tencent which operates broadcasting and social media services accepted money early on from China’s Ministry of State Security. Of course Tencent denies this. All of the companies involved deny it but there’s no doubt it’s happening.