China / Society

Tougher laws to protect personal information

By Huang Yuli in Shenzhen, Guangdong (Agencies) Updated: 2012-12-22 08:00

Shenzhen is preparing to introduce legislation to protect against the theft of personal information and other forms of identity crime.

"The disclosure and the misuse of personal information is getting serious due to the lack of effective laws to prevent it. Making a local regulation should relieve the problem," Chen Hong, director of the general office of Shenzhen People's Congress Standing Committee, said. The congress is the city's legislature.

"The regulation is still at the survey stage, but it may be launched within two years," he said.

The survey was conducted by Shenzhen Lawyers Association.

It asked Shenzhen residents about their attitude toward the current level of personal information protection.

He said the result showed personal information disclosure is very common, and 95 percent of the respondents said they had evidence their phone numbers, e-mail addresses or QQ numbers (a popular instant messenger in China) had been leaked.

Seventy percent of those asked said they believed their life had been affected by the disclosure and 50 percent said they were affected financially.

Some 94.5 percent of respondents believed laws should be put in place to protect personal information.

Li Xiaofang, a worker with a media firm, said she and her husband rent an apartment, and always get phone calls about whether they want to buy an apartment.

Her husband is an accountant with a local company, and he gets messages and phone calls asking whether he needs fake invoices.

"You can see these fraudsters are not sending messages blindly. They choose their subjects, so our personal information must have been leaked," she said.

Cheng Nan, a homemaker in Shenzhen, said that ever since she got pregnant and went to a public hospital for pregnancy examination, she and her husband have been targeted with text messages and phone calls selling milk powder, early education and parenting courses.

"Our personal information must have been leaked, otherwise how do these companies and agencies know our numbers and know we have a baby," she asked.

"But I've heard from my pregnant friends it's very common, so we just ignore it."

Wu Qiong, a lawyer with Guangdong Guanghe Law Firm, said it's difficult to prosecute such behavior because it's hard to track where the information comes from.

Wu said the illegal trade of personal information can be punished according to the 7th Criminal Law Amendment, which was implemented in 2009.

The act is a crime only if staff working in government, finance, telecom, transportation, education or medical organizations sell or illegally provide citizen's personal information to others.

Those using the information can also face heftier sentences of up to 10 years, depending on how the information is used.

Calling for a national law to protect against illegal use of personal information, Wu reminded citizens to be alert to identity crime by changing passwords, for instance, as often as they can.

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