Personal information infringement cases resurge in Beijing

Updated: Nov 16, 2023 Print
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Cases of personal information infringement have surged in Beijing this year, with many offenders using new technologies to steal data from internet enterprises, a report said.

Data released in a report issued by the Beijing High People's Court on Wednesday showed that the capital's courts have dealt with 233 criminal cases concerning personal information infringement since 2018, 229 of which have been concluded.

After a brief rise in 2019, the number of such cases heard by courts citywide had dropped every year since 2020, and it even decreased to nine in 2022, according to the report.

However, the figure rebounded this year, with the filing of 27 cases since January, it said.

Of the total concluded cases, it revealed that mobile phone number and identity card information are two major personal data that were most frequently stolen or infringed upon, followed by the internet browsing content and addresses.

Defendants in more than half of the concluded cases had jobs before they committed the crime, and many were even well educated and worked for large internet enterprises or big companies, such as those on e-commerce, telecom, financial investment, insurance, real estate agencies and education, it said.

"Some defendants sought profits by selling their clients' personal information, while some used the data to compete in the industry or take illegal business activities after they left original offices," it said.

As many defendants purchase or exchange personal data through social apps or online forums, a few criminals have also been found to have begun evading the cyberspace supervision by installing special software or applying new technologies on computers to steal personal information, it said.

It added that the transaction payment method for the information purchase has also evolved from real currencies to virtual currencies, such as bitcoin.

"Because people's information involve many fields in the era of digital economy, including finance, transportation and education, the personal information infringement is also associated with other offenses, such as telecom fraud, debt collection in violent means, blackmail and intentional injury," it said.

The high court suggested employers strengthen their management of employees' data in the report, with a scrutiny on whether the job applicants received administrative or criminal punishment for infringing upon others' personal information.

"Classifying employees' data and clarifying who has the right to read or handle the information are also crucial for employers," the court said, calling for enterprises to formulate rules on the data management, use and storage.

As of key industries, such as finance, transportation, real estate and telecom, the court said that it is essential to establish an information sharing mechanism between the relevant departments and courts citywide to ensure those convicted of infringing upon personal data can be told to and blacklisted by the authorities in a timely manner, the high court added.

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