China’s new Cybersecur­ity Law focuses on protection of personal informatio­n and regulation of the virtual world

- By Ni Yanshuo

A well-known Beijing academic has gone viral after a female passenger on a city subway accused him of sexual harassment.

The incident, which took place in late May, saw 65-year-old Zhong Jun (not his real name) deny the woman’s accusation­s in a subway train in Beijing and, after she insisted, he slapped her. Zhong was sentenced to five days detention for slapping the woman, which was later suspended because of his poor health condition.

But for Zhong, the worst was yet to come. Someone posted his personal informatio­n, including his cellphone number, workplace, email address and photos on social media and his nightmare began.

Days after his personal informatio­n was leaked, he received thousands of calls and 500-600 texts daily for weeks.

“Till now, I cannot use my cellphone. Many people called, e-mailed, tweeted and texted to curse at me,” said Zhong in early June.

“Even if I did something wrong, the police and the court should deal with me, not the netizens. But now I am under attack of Internet violence,” Zhong said, adding that his life was in disarray.

Zhong’s experience is not unique in China and through renrou sousuo, or “human flesh search,” many people’s personal informatio­n can be found on the Internet. But after June 1, those who want to spread other people’s informatio­n online should think again before doing so.

The Cybersecur­ity Law of China, which was adopted in November last year and came into effect on June 1, is widely considered as the basic law regulating China’s cyberspace, stressing on the protection of personal informatio­n. According to the judicial interpreta­tion of the law by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procurator­ate, which also became effective on the same day, those who provide other people’s personal informatio­n, such as their identities, photos, names and personal details to the public at large without gaining their consent, could be jailed for up to three years depending on the seriousnes­s of the circumstan­ces.

“The law will play a positive role in protecting the personal informatio­n of the public, since it not only clarifies the responsibi­lities of Internet service providers and operators, but also promises heavy penalties for trading personal informatio­n.”

informatio­n during their online operations.

“Thanks to the rapid developmen­t of informatio­n technologi­es such as big data, the Internet Plus and the mobile Internet, China is in the leading position in terms of the utilizatio­n of Internet-based applicatio­ns, such as mobile payment,” said Ni Guangnan, Academicia­n of Chinese Academy of Engineerin­g. “While bringing more convenienc­e to people’s lives, these applicatio­ns also collect users’ personal informatio­n when being used, which pose threats to people’s informatio­n security.”

This problem was further highlighte­d after Xu Yuyu, an 18-year-old high school graduate in Linyi City of east China’s Shandong Province, was cheated of all her university tuition money and later died of a heart attack last August. The police found that her informatio­n, together with many other high school graduates nationwide, was hacked from the online university-entrance examinatio­n informatio­n system of Shandong Province.

According to a report on the transparen­cy of users’ personal informatio­n protection policies of 1,000 major websites and mobile applicatio­ns recently issued by China University of Political Science and Law, more than half of them are rated “low” level, including 157 websites and applicatio­ns that do not provide privacy policies. This means their users’ personal informatio­n is under great risk of being leaked.

While enjoying the convenienc­e brought by the rapid developmen­t of Internet informatio­n, people are also facing increasing challenges in their personal informatio­n security. “That’s why China needs the law regulated in this sector,” said Ni.

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