Hospitals' database breached

By Chen Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-11 08:03

SHENZHEN: The personal records of 40,000 pregnant women were leaked from a hospital database in Shenzhen, Southern Metropolis Daily reported Tuesday.

The information included the women's names, addresses, home phone numbers, mobile numbers, and due dates.

All of the women were expected to give birth between March and August this year.

A CD containing the records has been sold by unlicensed street vendors in Shenzhen for 12,000 yuan ($1,700), the newspaper said.

The information was gleaned from an official database shared by more than 70 hospitals in Shenzhen, it said.

Doctors are able to access patients' records by entering their names and ID numbers into an electronic system, an official at the Shenzhen health bureau, surnamed Chen, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

The Shenzhen population and family planning department also has access to the database, but a representative of the department said it was not responsible for the breach.

Local health authorities are investigating the source of the leaked records.

Meanwhile, some of the women whose records were involved have reported receiving text messages offering products and services such as powdered milk formula, babysitters and fitness programs for new mothers.

"I began receiving the messages after I registered with the hospital," Yang Yimin, a public servant in Shenzhen, told the newspaper.

Legal experts are now calling on the national legislature to speed up its consideration of draft legislation on data protection.

Ye Bing, a lawyer with Shenzhen-based Guangdong Jiangshanhong Law Firm, said: "Without a clear definition of privacy rights, personal information has been widely misused and those who profit from the practice are not being suitably punished."

Under current law, those who believe their privacy rights have been violated can file lawsuits only if the breach resulted in damage to their reputation.

News of the leaked hospital records comes on the heels of similar cases of breached databases in Hong Kong.

Within the past year, unauthorized parties have gained access to a bank's database of 160,000 clients and a hospital's database of 16,000 patients in the region.

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