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March 20, 2012

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US data company suspends local office amid probe

THE US-based corporation Dun & Bradstreet, a major source of commercial information, announced yesterday that it has temporarily suspended its Shanghai Roadway D&B Marketing Services Co Ltd, pending an investigation into allegations that its data-collection practices may violate Chinese law.

Zhabei District police started an investigation of Roadway, after a China Central Television report disclosed that Roadway's main business was to sell the personal information of affluent individuals. The company offices have been sealed, its four servers seized, and the general manager detained, according to police.

CCTV reported over the weekend that according to its investigation, the company provided some individuals' ages, professions, identities and property conditions to its clients, so the clients could send advertisements to them.

Some of Roadway's employees said on, China's biggest microblog site, that the company didn't sell but just rented the information, but lawyers said the action was still illegal. "It leaked the information, thus it violated people's rights," said Qiu Baochang, a lawyer for the China Consumers Association.

The website of Roadway has been shut down. Originally, it claimed that it owned personal information on more than 150 million Chinese consumers with "intermediate or high consumption capacity," and data on 130 million e-mail accounts. It boasted that its personal information database updated 50,000 times a day.

D&B yesterday released a statement to apologize for any concerns about the use of people's personal data.

"D&B has been reviewing certain allegations that local employees may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and certain other laws in our China operations. D&B is cooperating with the local Chinese investigation, and has voluntarily reported these matters to the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission," said the statement.

D&B said it acquired Roadway's operations in 2009, and in 2011 it accounted for about US$23 million in revenue and US$2 million in operating income.


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