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Draft law to protect personal privacy

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-25 07:48

Theft and illegal trading of information 'must be checked'

Legislation will soon help Web users protect online privacy and ensure that they agree to any personal information being passed on.

The top legislature reviewed a draft on Monday that includes measures to strengthen protection of personal information.

Li Fei, a senior legislator involved in the draft at the National People's Congress, said the State must bolster protection for digital information that could be used to determine the identity of a user or that concerns a user's privacy.

"The safety of information is being challenged by rapidly developing technology. A great deal of criminal activity, such as online fraud, involves information being gathered illegally," he said.

"This jeopardizes the security of the State and society. But the necessary measures to counteract it are being hindered by a lack of legal support."

One of the highlights in the draft seeks to ban illegal trading of personal information.

"Organizations and individuals will be banned from illegally obtaining and providing, or selling, personal digital information," Li said.

"Internet service providers and government-sponsored institutions and companies should strictly ensure the privacy of personal digital information."

One recent case saw an innocent person's reputation blackened by false accusations spread online.

An employee of a real estate archive in Guangzhou was sacked on Saturday for illegally obtaining property information and releasing the information online, China National Radio reported.

The suspect alleged corruption on the part of a retired architect, who the suspect claimed owns many properties.

The accusation was widely circulated online but an investigation cleared the retired architect.

In May, Chen Shiqu, director of the anti-human-trafficking office of the Ministry of Public Security, posted a message calling for the public to verify any accusations they made online.

"Public security officers will look into every single piece of information about alleged trafficking, but false information interferes with investigations," he said.

The draft also proposed asking Internet users to identify themselves to Internet and telecom services providers.

But "such identity management could be conducted backstage, allowing users to use different names when publicizing information", Li said.

Since March, leading micro-blogging services, including Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo, have asked users to identify themselves.

Li Yuxiao, director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of Social Networks and Public Opinion Research, has called to set up a national project to protect personal information as well as legislation to support it.

"The Internet can only achieve sustainable development based on the rule of law," he said.

Ying Songnian, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said organizations that hold large amounts of information must be responsible and capable of holding it.

"Organizations like websites, banks and hospitals have huge amounts of personal information, but their ability to prevent leakage is weak," he said.

The passwords of about 40 million users at tianya.cn, a major Internet forum, were leaked to outsiders a year ago.

Contact the writer at zhaoyinan@chinadaily.com.cn

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