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August 29, 2009

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No privacy in personal details

PERSONAL details of city residents, "almost 100 percent accurate," is being sold online, bringing with it an onslaught of unwanted text messages and phone calls.

And the scary thing is that the practice is legal.

The information sellers claim they can get the most updated personal information from property management companies, banks, telecommunications companies and even shopping malls, Shanghai Morning Post reported yesterday after several days of investigation.

Real estate agencies, finance companies and insurance salespeople will buy such information, a seller who claims to have detailed information on 1.7 million residents told the newspaper.

The man, surnamed Zhang, showed the newspaper his database on his laptop.

Every entry contained regular telephone numbers, cell phone numbers and addresses of home owners around the city. He sold part of this information for 6,000 yuan (US$878).

Zhang said he entered the business just a few months ago but would not reveal where he got the information.

He offered a list of residents of a complex in Minhang District to prove his reliability. The property management company concerned said the data on 2,584 of the 2,600 home owners was correct.

Zhang also sold the information of 5,939 home owners in Brilliant City of Putuo District to reporters for 200 yuan. A reporter found the data uncannily correct.

A resident, surnamed Cheng, said he was often asked by realtors whether he wanted to sell his home.

"To my surprise, they know the style of my apartment and its total area," he said.

Zhang said he earned up to 30,000 yuan a month and planned to expand.

There's no penalty for selling information, according to the report, but legal experts have pushed for laws to be enacted to protect people's personal data.

Ding Guanghong, a member of the Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China, suggested personal data protection initiatives this year.


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