Japanese investment in website causes some to pull info

09:40, November 13, 2009      

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Some Chinese college students are asking their peers to delete their personal information from social networking site Renren.com, as the company has had an infusion of Japanese money.

Some netizens say the Japanese shareholder Softbank, which now owns 20 percent of the company, which means it could use the online information to gain an advantage over China.

"Renren has the personal information of more than 15 million Chinese university students, who represent the future elite of China's society. The Japanese can easily analyze China's future with these materials," a widespread online post said.

"Tens of thousands of college students have already deleted personal information from Renren," the post added.

Hundreds of netizens are discussing the topic on the Tianya BBS website. Some people are criticizing the reaction, saying it is based on a rumor created by Renren's competitor to try to get more postings for their site and away from Renren.

Others are expressing indignation or anger.

"I don't care if the post is telling the truth. But I will definitely delete my information if the Japanese are taking over the ownership. I do not trust them," a netizen named wohuiyuan said.

"Renren asks for real information in too many aspects. Now it wants to sell it to the Japanese? We should be cautious," another netizen named zlflame said.

A similar event happened two years ago, when netizens spread a message on the Internet that sina.com, one of China's most popular internet portals, is owned by Japan and that the name "sina" has a humiliating meaning to Chinese people.

Officials from Renren.com's owner, China's Oak Pacific Interactive, said the accusations are unfair.

The company has admitted that Softbank last year made a $384 million investment for approximately 40 percent of the Oak Pacific Interactive, and changed their biggest social networking service name from "Xiaonei.com" to "Renren.com", but they guaranteed the personal information in Renren's database would not be leaked.

"I can guarantee the user info in our database is confidential. Even our boss cannot read the information," Cai Ming, a public relations official from Oak Pacific told China Daily.

Cai said Renren now has 100 million users, of which 27 million are college students.

"The accusation will definitely hurt our business. For example, it will affect our ability to get new members," Cai said.

The company has not calculated how many people have deleted their personal information yet.

Qu Xiaodong, an analyst with domestic consulting firm CCW Research, said such a massive demonstration "represents a kind of cyber ultra-nationalism", or maybe a conspiracy from Renren's archrival.

"Some foreign capital does have a special purpose when entering Chinese industries, especially some industries concerning our national security, but I do not think Renren.com is such an important site for a foreign company to steal secrets from," he said.

Fang Xindong, a Beijing-based IT industry observer, said he regards Softbank's capital infusion as a "pure business activity".

"Softbank is an experienced venture capital firm. I think it will quickly pull out once it makes a satisfying profit in this project," he added.

Xiao Xiang, 18, who is about to enter university next year, said whether it is true or not, this case raises many questions for Chinese youth.

"As a nation once deeply hurt by Japan, it is natural for us to be sensitive and cautious, but we should also avoid to be led too far by our nationalism," he said.

Source:China Daily

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