From Iceland — 400 Icelanders Named In Zhenhua Data Leak

400 Icelanders Named In Zhenhua Data Leak

Published September 29, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
The National Archives

Of the millions of people whose personal information has been compiled and stored by Chinese tech company Zhenhua Data, a Chinese tech company with reported links to China’s intelligence and military, about 400 Icelanders are amongst them, Stundin reports.

While the company has denied any wrongdoing, proof of the data compilation—which included a ranking system of who was a PEP (politically exposed person), RCA (relative or close associate), and SIP (special interest person)—was sent to American academic Christopher Balding by a whistleblower. In a statement, Christopher details that the database was constructed from numerous sources and was “technically complex using very advanced language, targeting, and classification tools”, targeting influential people and institutions.

4,000 Icelanders in all

Stundin reports that there are in fact 4,000 Icelanders in the Zhenhua Data leak, but Stundin was only provided with a copy of 400 of those people.

One of the more striking details about the data leak is a significant portion of the information is out of date. For example, amongst the people named are Geir H. Haarde, who was Prime Minister during the 2008 financial collapse, but is today the Icelandic ambassador to the United States. Siv Friðleifsdóttir and Gylfi Magnússon, both of whom served as ministers over a decade ago, are also on the list.

That said, the available information includes only 10% of all the Icelanders compiled in the data set, and there are still quite a number of active Icelandic politicians on the list.

Making products out of people

Halldóra Mogensen, a Pirate Party MP who is named on the leak, told Stundin that the matter is troubling, adding that she believes many countries compile such lists.

“I find it troubling that we as people are made into products of a sort when it comes to such databases,” she said. “Companies compile information about us and then sell it to others. This is a business model which has become incredibly profitable. That in itself is very worrying, and something that politicians need to think more about.”

Family members of these people are also included in the database, their children amongst them. Hanna Katrín Friðriksson, a Reform Party MP, expressed grave misgivings about her own inclusion in the database.

“It’s disturbing that someone took it upon themselves to collect information like this about me, for reasons that I don’t know,” she said. “It’s disturbing enough when this is done for the sale of goods and services. When the connection is related to the military and secret service of a foreign country, it becomes even more disturbing.” She added that the inclusion of family members was also worrisome, saying, “That I find especially disturbing. I just find it creepy.”

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