Nearly half of the 938 people polled in four major Chinese cities have fallen victim to personal data abuse, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a government think tank, said Tuesday after an 11-month study.
CASS said about 42.5 percent of the residents of Beijing, Chengdu, Qingdao and Xi'an have experienced violations of their personal data. The most common abuse is that companies or salesmen use the phone numbers of individuals without their knowledge to text or call to sell products.
The academy's latest report showed about 70 percent of the victims have gotten unwanted ads or spam on their private phones.
Xu Long, an entrepreneur-turned deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC, the legislature), has called for a privacy protection law that would create a special administration responsible for personal data safety.
The Standing Committee of the NPC approved a criminal law amendment on Saturday banning government or corporate employees with access to personal data from selling or leaking such information.
The amendment does not clearly define "personal information," which can cover a wide range of concepts, said Zhu Zhengfu, a lawyer from the southern province of Guangdong.
A privacy protection law, or a legal explanation to clearly define the concept of personal information, should be a priority for legislators, he said.
A prime cause of personal data leaks was the inappropriate handling of client information by banks, insurance companies, real estate companies and similar organizations, CASS said.
Wang Xiaomei, the author of the CASS report, said people had to present IDs card in many situations such as applying for a job or driving license, entering a government organization or even attending a movie premiere.
"This makes it easy for personal information to leak to those who want to make a profit from it," said Wang.
She said that the public's low awareness of personal data protection had worsened the situation, as only about 10 percent of those polled said they were careful in releasing information. More than 50 percent said they do not care at all.
Limiting situations where ID cards were required, and restricting those who were entitled to check ID cards to the police, would be effective ways to protect personal information, she said.