Metro Beijing

Breach of privacy as students' details for sale online

By Cao Yin and Zheng Xin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-21 07:55
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BEIJING - Private information about elementary and secondary school students and their families is for sale online, which legal experts say constitutes an invasion of privacy.

On the list, information about the capital's 70,000 students who sat the recent college entrance examination sells for more than 1,000 yuan ($155).

Information on the list includes names, cell phone numbers and home addresses of students from across the country. The information usually sells as a package for different regions and the prices for each package could be up to 1,000 yuan ($155).

The buyers are generally private educational companies or training institutions, which are looking for students who failed the college entrance examination on June 8 and might be suitable for a one-year training course.

Sellers leave their contact details as well as a sample of the private information online to attract buyers. The final deal is conducted face to face after negotiations with interested parties, according to an online advertisement.

A netizen named Liangxinmingdan, or "conscience name list", who put a QQ number on the Baidu post bar, told China Daily on Sunday he and his colleagues had information about more than 60,000 examinees from Beijing available through the instant-messaging tool.

"The minimum price for information about Beijing's examinees is 900 yuan a package," the netizen said. He added that many companies and institutions had bought information from them recently.

Another online seller called Shoujigaokaomingdan, who sold information the same way, also said he had information on 8,000 examinees from the capital and about 15,000 from Shanghai.

"One package is 300 yuan at least. But if buyers want more, we will consider cutting the price a little," the seller said via QQ.

However, both sellers refused to explain how they acquired the information.

"It must be an invasion of privacy," Xiang Yang, a lawyer at Yingke Law Firm, said.

Usually, sellers get the information from officials of private schools, whose enrolment regulations are not as strict as those at public schools, Xiang said.

"Officials at the schools can make money from the sellers," he said. "They are the source of the information and the reason why sellers can easily get private information."

Also, there are few laws or regulations to punish private institutions for privacy breaches and this provides opportunities for the sellers and the schools to make deals, Xiang said.

Many students were upset when they received text messages and phone calls from private companies.

Zhao Huijin, a 23-year-old employee at a Beijing tourism company, said she always received recruitment messages after she graduated from high school and was forced to change her telephone number.

"All I could do was delete the messages," she said. "Selling people's private information is disgusting."

Qiu Shanshan, a graduate of Beijing Normal University, also complained about messages from officials at educational institutions who had promised to keep students' information private.

"Not only should the sellers be punished, but also those who provided the information," she said.

China Daily

(China Daily 06/21/2011 page7)

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