Cainiao, the logistics firm backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, has said it aims to roll out “invisible waybills” on parcels nationwide by the end of this year to help prevent personal data theft.
The company's system, now being tested in five northwestern provinces, encrypts a recipient's name, address and phone number on a parcel and only allows express delivery drivers to access the information through a specially designed app.
“China has the largest logistics industry in the world, but the personal information placed on waybills has caught the eye of criminals,” said Bao Ying, a Cainiao spokeswoman. “To better protect the privacy and interests of our customers, we came up with invisible waybills.”
Express parcel senders have been required to provide their real names and phone numbers since late 2015. However, security experts have warned the information on waybills could be stolen if not disposed of correctly.
Major shopping websites, such as JD.com, have introduced similar encryption systems for their delivery drivers. Yet with a network of 93 partner companies, Cainiao's system could be the most extensive.
Testing was launched on March 23 in cooperation with Huangmajia, a logistics and delivery company based in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province. Bao said if all goes well, the system will be rolled out in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in June, and nationwide by year's end.
The response has been mixed, according to the head of Huangmajia's terminal in Xi'an, which has 16 delivery drivers. Huang, who did not want to give his full name, said some have reported receiving positive feedback from customers, but others have raised concerns about learning how to use a new app.
So far, the invisible waybill service is free, Bao said, as introducing charges could slow adoption of the system.
“We're doing this to stop the offline leakage of personal information, but we're also working hard to stop online leaks by using cloud technology and monitoring systems to see who is extracting the data,” she added.
Zhang Pengfei, an information services official at the State Post Bureau, welcomed encrypted waybills as an innovation that can better protect people's personal data. “It will take time for deliverymen to adapt to this change, but it's a good start,” he said.
However, law professor Liu Deliang at Beijing Normal University said online data theft and “underground exchanges” are still the much bigger threat.
“We should focus on legislation that targets telecom fraud and phone call harassment and act vigorously against crime,” he said. “When there's no underground exchanges, there'll be no personal information leakage.”