Gov't urged to be cautious after several personal information leak cases reported

Updated 2017-11-21 09:32:12 Global Times

Students complain about the release of names and ID numbers

When some local governments began releasing personal information on their websites, ostensibly for greater clarification, legal scholars warned that the local officials responsible should not be so casual about the information they release.

A number of local government websites, for example, those in East China's Anhui, Jiangxi and Fujian provinces, published official notices containing the full names, ID numbers, profession, and phone numbers of local people, the news site thepaper.cn reported on Monday

It said that the education bureau in Fuzhou, Fujian Province released dozens of students' names and ID numbers as part of its notification of scholarship candidates on its website.

That was in May, but there was no change in the release until last week, thepaper.cn reported.

An operator from the Fuzhou bureau told the Global Times on Monday that they had included the ID numbers because many students had the same name and the ID number was a way of better identifying them.

The same thing happened in Anhui and Jiangxi provinces, as well as Hengshui in North China's Hebei Province and Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, which gave out not only the name and ID number, but also a bank account number, thepaper.cn reported.

Some official websites reacted immediately after the slip-up was exposed, thepaper.cn said, for example, Anhui, which published a notice on November 9, demanding that all local governments check to see whether there had been a breach of individual privacy laws.

This tempest caused public concern over the government's balancing of government transparency and personal privacy.

"China has laws and policies to protect personal information but local officials sometimes lack awareness, and that's a reflection of lazy governance," Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Global Times on Monday.

This information leak was not the result of a technology glitch, it was government's negligence, meaning a lack of any information security sense, Xiang Ligang, a chief executive of the domestic telecom industry portal cctime.com, told the Global Times on Monday.

"The cost of ignoring personal privacy matters can be huge. It opens a door to fraud and telephone harassment or even physical threats," Zhi said.

Noting that government may only receive some "administrative penalties" for such negligent behavior, experts also warned that they should be more cautious about releasing information online especially facing the rampancy of telecoms fraud.

At the same time, if governments really are doing a good job in protecting personal information, it could set a good example for other bodies, say banks and delivery services, which can easily leak information, Zhi added.

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