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Chinese vent new-found anger over privacy breaches

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, June 5 (Reuters) China's citizens are tired of their personal information being leaked and misused, state media reported today, backing calls for strengthened privacy legislation in the world's largest one-party country.

Forty percent of people regularly receive unsolicited text messages, phone calls and mail, according to the results of a survey on privacy carried out by the China Youth Daily newspaper.

It cited cases of respondents who received solicitations ranging from home renovations to marital agencies.

''Those who have just had a child get baby product advertisements slipped under the door; new car owners get calls from insurance agents... even the recently divorced get calls from marital go-betweens,'' it said.

Over 90 per cent of Chinese people feared the unauthorised disclosure of their personal information, and 74 per cent wanted legislation to guarantee the privacy of their personal information.

''Currently, our country's privacy protection legislation is weak,'' the paper said, adding that procedures and punishment for violators were unclear.

Online, one ''personal search'' Web site boasted details of 90 million people, the paper reported, while others contained special lists devoted to celebrities, property owners and various corporate ''bosses'' and managers.

On the street, vendors outside a subway station in Beijing hawk lists with personal information of ''celebrity drivers'', ''food and drink manufacturing company bosses'' and ''textile company bosses''.

Government departments were to blame, the paper said.

''Tempted by personal gain, people and departments with access to this information sell it to commercial entities seeking customers,'' the paper said.

Until recently in China, the concept of privacy was regarded with suspicion and denounced as a decadent, Western privilege.

Soviet-style ''work units'' kept record of intimate details of their employees, including marital status and women's menstrual cycles.

Work places and numerous government departments continue to maintain information on the personal details and purchasing habits of their citizens.

In April, China's police bureau announced that personal files of over 90 per cent of China's 1.3 billion people were recorded on a digital database.

But growing prosperity through nearly three decades of reform has nurtured a rapidly growing, property-owning middle class more demanding of personal privacy.

Last March several delegates to the National People's Congress called for strengthened privacy legislation at the parliamentary body's annual conference, the paper reported.

''Fixing the 'personal information protection law' is a step that cannot be delayed,'' said NPC delegate Xue Yadong.

REUTERS SI RK1345

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