BEIJING — China’s Internet supervisor called on Tuesday for stricter controls on personal information, after the widespread leaking of the personal details of people from Wuhan, those who had visited the city and anyone else infected with coronavirus.
People returning from Wuhan are asked to register with local authorities, but many of them found forms with their personal information — name, home address, ID, phone number, and even college entrance exam scores — being passed around in WeChat groups, sometimes marked as “suspected cases.”
Many people have complained about getting threat messages or harassment calls as a result, and the hashtag #WuhanReturneesInfoLeak has been a trending topic on the Weibo social media platform since late January.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said on Tuesday that no organization or individual other than authorized health departments should collect personal information “for disease treatment and prevention” without permission, let alone share them on social media,
Hong Yanqing, a Peking University researcher and senior CAC official said “big data” analysis of epidemic control involves collecting large amounts of personal information, but said not everyone had the right or capacity to do so.
One student studying at a college in Wuhan returned to his home in Hebei on Jan. 11 for the winter holiday, and voluntarily isolated himself for over 20 days at home, without showing any symptoms.
But in late January his details appeared on a list widely circulated on social media of nearly 1,000 people who had either studied, worked in, or been to Wuhan.
“I cooperated with the government and answered their questions because I understood it was standard practice. But how on earth did my detailed personal information get leaked online?” he asked in a social media post.
“I already knew that there were people illegally collecting personal information and trading them for one yuan [14 U.S. cents] per 10 names. Imagine how many more people’s information is going to get leaked if such documents continue to be shared online, and imagine these getting into the hands of criminals.”
Another Wuhan university student from Hunan province said he had stopped going out or meeting anyone since his personal information was leaked.