Privacy in cyberspace

Updated: 2012-01-17 08:32

(China Daily)

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Many Chinese netizens were thrown into a panic recently following unconfirmed widespread allegations that the personal details of subscribers to a number of major websites, including popular online forums, e-commerce, social networking and even financial institutions, were leaked.

But netizens can breathe a little easier when they log on to their favorite sites as a police investigation into the claims found that most of the websites had not been hacked over the past month, or that they had been attacked without their subscribers' information being leaked.

The National Internet Information Office, the country's Internet watchdog, said on Jan 10 that four people had been detained by police and eight others had been punished after being found guilty of fabricating the rumor.

But there are still plenty of reasons to worry about online data security as personal information has more and more commercial value and hackers appear to be pervasive in cyberspace.

The Internet has witnessed rapid development, evolving from a one-dimensional information source to a multi-dimensional platform that routinely means handing over personal information to people sight unseen. But the safety of information is still far from satisfactory. Indeed, there are more and more alarm bells ringing.

With the boundaries between the virtual world and the real world gradually disappearing there are numerous opportunities for criminals to try and exploit. The existing laws and regulations concerning information security have not played their due role as a firewall in protecting online personal information.

To avoid netizens becoming the victims of online hacking, Internet companies should make greater efforts to protect the information on their websites and those found to be selling users' information or allowing users' information to be exposed should be punished according to the law.

It is imperative to establish new security standards and mechanisms in line with the phenomenal popularity of the Internet and a law on personal information protection should be introduced as soon as possible.

(China Daily 01/17/2012 page8)