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Transport data raise privacy concerns

(China Daily)

09:28, October 11, 2011

BEIJING - Modern technology may be allowing someone who has not even followed you to know exactly where you have been.

When you use yikatong, the blue cards passengers often swipe when boarding a public bus or subway train, a person can learn exactly when you rode public transport and where you went simply by typing onto a website the 17 numbers appearing on the card.

Li Tiejun, an engineer at the Beijing office of Kingsoft, a Zhuhai-based software company, wrote about the card "secret" on his micro blog after discovering on Sunday that he could use the Beijing Municipal Administration and Communication Card Co's official website to obtain information about his previous whereabouts. He did not even have to bother with typing in a password to get it.

"I was shocked to see so many details about where I had been," he said. "I felt as if someone had followed me and knew a lot about me. It was annoying."

He compared the company's website to a big database without a lock.

Within 20 hours, Li's complaints had been forwarded more than 3,000 times, provoking a controversy online about whether putting such information out to the public violates cardholders' privacy.

"This information not only infringes upon their privacy, but also may undermine public safety," Li said.

"It could be used by someone who is ill disposed (toward others) in horrible ways. The database may also be an easy target for hackers."

Despite Li's contentions, China Daily reporters found they could not access the Beijing Municipal Administration and Communication Card Co's website. "It's because too many people are using it at the same time", said an employee of the company who did not want to be identified.

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