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Access to ID details arouses big controversy
By Guo Nei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-03 01:26

The practice of allowing individuals and companies to have access to personal information in Changchun is arousing spirited public debate and controversy.

Since the end of June, individuals have been allowed to check up on personal information at the citizen identity information centre in Changchun, capital of Northeast China's Jilin Province.

Ma Tao, the centre's director, said on Friday that individuals with their identification cards and related certificates -- as well as related institutions with recommendations -- are able to check personal information of Chinese citizens.

The information given out includes names, sex, ages, addresses, employment situations and educational status.

Such a practice is provided for the convenience of related departments and companies, such as banks, telecommunication companies, said Ma in an interview with China Daily.

Ma said it is helpful for the companies to be able to seek out the truth from people who may be holding feigned identity cards. In the past, some people were found to be using fake identification cards to do illegal things, he said.

The departments of public security, banks, and telecommunications will see reduced losses from the new centre, Ma said.

But some legal experts said the action infringes on the privacy rights of the citizen.

Wang Liming, an expert on civil code from Beijing-based Renmin University, said before checking on identity information, related departments should get the approval of the individuals, otherwise, the privacy rights of citizens would be violated.

"It is not accordance with the law if someone checks up on the citizen's identity information even if he gets the approval of the centre," said a law expert from the Law Department of Chinese People's Public Security University, who asked not to be named.

Ma said that individual people wanting to look for relatives or friends usually come to the centre to check on citizens' identities.

On these occasions, the centre will only provide addresses of the person asked for, and then the person is told to get help form local police, Ma said.

The expert from Chinese People's Public Security University said such an action is not lawful.

The Law on Citizens' Identity Cards states that public security authorities should keep secret personal information on citizens that they have collected while producing, issuing, checking and detaining their identity cards.

Leaking such information constitutes an infringement of citizens' rights and can result in legal action, the unnamed expert said.

And the draft civil code, which is still under legislative debate, also regards the action of leaking identity information as the infringement of citizen's right, said Wang.

Wang also said legislators are working hard to add the articles on the privacy rights of citizens.

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