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Stop up leakage of personal information
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14:13, March 11, 2009

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· NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2009
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By Li Hongmei People's Daily Online

Have you ever suffered this? When you bought insurances for a newly purchased car years ago, you were required to register some of your personal information. But your nightmare would start ever since then: Every year when the insurances near expiration, you would receive dozens of calls trying to sell you insurances, and what frightens you most is that they seemingly knew everything about you-- in addition to your car model and plate number-- even your address and spouse.

A Ms. Ye was reported recently to have stumbled into an even more horrifying nightmare land, when she suddenly received a bill from a mobile phone service company urging her to pay for the 1,800- yuan fee and another 1,000-yuan as the overdue fines. When she straightened things out finally, she was just told that more than ten cell phone numbers had been registered using her ID card, a duplicated one, though.

Perhaps it is not odd-sounding in China, the world's most populous country. Living in such a densely populated environment, the people here have long been accustomed to the vacuum of privacy rights. In that or other cases, most Chinese people have learnt to docilely accept the worst the environment has given them. Even if they have some awareness that their private life could be upset as a result of the unauthorized leak of their personal information, they could most probably do nothing but take it in silent discontent.

According to an online survey conducted in 2008, nearly 89 percent of the 2,422 people polled claimed they had suffered because personal information leaked. Top on the list as the worst offenses were anonymous messages, phone calls and spam, or unwanted advertising messages. What's more, a recent report disclosed that an advertising company was the main source of all this junk as it secretly collected the registration information of hundreds of millions of cell phone users.

Many may wonder how on earth the company could accumulate so much of the personal data so easily. Of course, one abundantly clear reason is some businessmen's greedy and profiteering tendency, and the other, the lack of a sound credit supervision system. Even worse, the shortage of effective regulations, as well as loopholes in legislation applied to protect personal information, has already led to a widespread harassment in China in the bygone years.

Particularly in the current times of economic woes, it seems to be a have-to for the government to resort to some new regulations to discipline the market and better protect people's privacy rights, and it is highly desirable for the issue to get the attention it deserves right now. In the meantime, with a growing sense of privacy among the public, accompanied by the general improvement of both people's living standards and educational levels, and with the advance of telecommunication means, especially the widespread of the Internet, more and more ordinary people are waking up to the very need for the protection law on privacy and personal information.

Chinese lawmakers and political advisors also called for legislation for comprehensive protection of citizens' personal information at the ongoing yearly sessions. Actually their calls came days after the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, approved a criminal law amendment banning government and corporate employees with access to personal data to sell or leak such information. But some deem that the amendment is still far from enough to provide comprehensive protection for confidential or personal data, as it would go short of specifying compensation for damage caused by personal information leakage and appointing a specialized organization responsible for personal information safety.

Suffice it to say that the amendment needs to further clarify who on earth would be held responsible for levying what level of fines on those who recklessly lose confidential or personal data; and more over, it also has to give a distinct legal explanation to define the concept of personal information.

Today, China is stepping up efforts to build up a 'people-oriented' harmonious society, so it is highly expected to enact a stringent law to protect people's privacy rights. This is not simply because people are no longer numb to infringement upon their privacy and personal data, but more on account of the common aspirations of both the people and the government to create a more reliable and credible society. Put it bluntly, people's privacy rights are part of human rights, and the extent to which an individual's privacy is respected will reflect the civilization level of a society at large.

The article represents the author's view only. It does not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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