When Sharon Liu, a financial expert in the city of Tianjin, eastern China, bought an apartment through an online brokerage platform late last year, she never agreed to provide personal information. for strangers. But now, three times a day, she receives calls from people she has never met but knows her full name and home address.
“They are seriously disrupting my work and my personal life”, Liu said she was forced to answer the phone for fear of missing important calls. “I assume they know my address and phone number, I don’t feel safe.”
Liu is not alone. From job search sites with loose privacy controls to companies with employees actively abetting personal data theft, China is still grappling with concerns about data privacy. In particular, tacit transactions of personal information have flourished as Beijing’s government is pushing the digital sector to play a larger role in China’s domestic economy.
Payment system for digital yuan at an automatic checkout counter inside a supermarket in Shenzhen. The central government of China wants to build a digital economy but first must ensure that personal information is not misused.
With no laws dedicated to the protection of personal information and a lack of clear guidelines, China’s law enforcement agencies have struggled to keep up with an increasingly skilled industry chain. including insiders and data brokers.
“We have to admit that [tình trạng] leaking and breaching the personal information of Chinese citizens is terrible,“Steve Zhao, a partner and intellectual property attorney at the Beijing-based Gen law firm, said.
Zhao, who specializes in the online underground economy, has described China’s data black market as a professional and industrialized value chain linked to a wide range of illegal activities. This includes fraud, extortion, and violent debt collection.
Last year, five employees at the courier company YTO Express were found to have leased their corporate accounts to a group of underground data brokers for 500 yuan (about $ 77) a day, resulting in personal information of more than 400,000 users was exposed, including name, address, national identification number and phone number.
Although brokers have been arrested for selling data to telemarketing scammers in China and Southeast Asia, it is too late to remove the victim’s information from the internet after it was caught. Spread.
In March of last year, personal data of 538 million users on social network Weibo was leaked and sold on the dark web, including their phone number, gender and geographical location. In August 2018, one of the largest hotel chains in China, Huazhu Hotel Group, reported a leak that resulted in information from their 130 million customers appearing on a dark web forum.
Underground trading of personal information has become a professional and almost industrialized value chain in China.
Samuel Yang, partner and expert in cybersecurity and data protection at law firm Anjie said: “We are a densely populated country with a thriving digital economy, so the underground data industry involves vast amounts of personal information.”
Liu, who bought an apartment in Tianjin, suspects a real estate agency has leaked her personal data. But without proof, she couldn’t take any action.
“Trying to protect your rights will not damage these large platforms”, Liu said. “If the leak is not from buying an apartment but from buying something else, the salespeople won’t stop calling.”
Challenges lie ahead for today’s policymakers, and they need to strike a balance between the need for stronger government controls, the protection of personal privacy and at the same time. Companies must be encouraged to utilize the full potential of the data.
Kendra Schaefer, head of technology policy research at Trivium China, said: “The Chinese government is preparing for a concerted effort to create regulations and standards that support the purchase, sale and circulation of data throughout the digital economy.”
Last year, the central government signaled that data would play a leading role in China’s economic and social development by listing it as a new factor of production along with land, labor and capital, with the goal of integrating the physical and digital economy.
The government has been trying to figure out how to create a viable market for data and establish rules around it, to ensure smooth and secure data circulation by promoting bureaucracy. Publicly shares their data, but there are also companies that share data from search services, e-commerce, and social media to develop a third-party big data platform.
For example, with the source of the data leakage being internal, companies could be fined up to 50 million yuan (about $ 7.6 million) for a breach.
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