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China Life sorry for personal information leakage

By Zhao Qian (Global Times)

08:04, March 01, 2013

Discussion heated up Thursday about the protection of personal information and possible related legislation after China Life Insurance (Group) apologized for the disclosure of data from around 800,000 policyholders.

"The disclosure is horrible, and who is protecting our rights as consumers?" Jia Ningfang, a 29-year-old white-collar worker in Beijing, told the Global Times Thursday.

The scandal began Tuesday after an online message board user named "perfectwld1" posted that when he went to apply for auto insurance on a website affiliated with a partner of China Life, he could also look up nearly all the information of other auto insurance policyholders, including their ID numbers, telephone numbers, and passwords.

And another Internet user commented on the post, confirming that information about 792,270 policyholders of China Life could be found on the website.

Under pressure from public queries, China Life confessed Wednesday that "the disclosure is real, and was caused by our partner Chengdu Zhongyi Kangjian Science and Technology Co, who upgraded the operating system on February 22."

China Life reported late Thursday that its 2012 full-year net profit could decline to some 11 billion yuan ($1.77 billion), a 40 percent drop compared with the previous year.

Both China Life and Zhongyi Kangjian have apologized for the accident, but no lawsuit has been launched.

"No serious problems have been caused by the unintentional information disclosure so far, so it could be considered a civil case," Yang Zhaoquan, a lawyer at Beijing Vlaw Firm, told the Global Times Thursday.

"But Chinese civil law has not yet clearly defined specific punishments for personal information disclosure, because it is difficult to measure the losses caused by such disclosure," Yang noted.

So far China hasn't launched an independent law to protect residents' personal information, which experts say is one cause of the rampant disclosure of private data.

Private information disclosure has long been a target of criticism in the insurance sector.

"My friends and I are always bothered by cold calls from insurance agents, and I wonder how they get access to my name and phone number," Jia said.

An insider was quoted by the Guangzhou Daily as saying that some banks had shared their clients' information with insurers affiliated with the banks.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission issued a rule in 2010 that prohibits agents from making cold calls.

After years of regulation by the government, "insurance companies have improved their management of client information protection," Hu Bo, an insurance professor at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times Thursday.

"But individual insurance agents such as auto dealerships, who used to be authorized to sell auto insurance, often sold their clients' information to other agencies," Hu noted.

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