Privacy rules limit private detectives

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, January 21, 2013
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Private detective agencies, once members of a booming industry, are on the verge of collapse after China passed new rules that outlawed the ways they obtained information.

Privacy rules putting paid to private eyes.[File photo]

Privacy rules putting paid to private eyes.[File photo]

Many agencies have closed down after police launched a nationwide campaign against trading in personal information in December last year.

Police said that they had arrested 89 private detectives in Hubei Province during raids last Monday, and 74 in recent raids in Chongqing.

The detectives are accused of illegally obtaining or providing personal information after lawmakers passed new rules on December 28 to tighten online security and protect Internet users' privacy.

According to the rules, the country should protect digital information that could be used to determine the identity of a user or that concerns a user's privacy.

The rules ban organizations and individuals from illegally obtaining personal information, as well as prohibiting them from selling or providing the information to others. Violations can lead to confiscation of illegal gains, the loss of licenses and website closures.

In Shanghai, many agencies could not be reached on the phone numbers provided online while others announced that they had quit the business.

A Shanghai Daily reporter posing as a client called several companies, asking them to check his father's bank account details, but most said they could not. "It's not that we cannot get the information for you, but we dare not do that at this time point," said an official surnamed Xu with Shanghai Anbang Investigation Co.

A manager surnamed Chen with 007 Private Detective Co said it could do the job for a higher fee, about 5,000 yuan compared to the 2,000 yuan stated on its online price list.

But Chen said they could only track accounts from several specific banks as some sources had quit the business.

Last March, Shanghai Daily reported an increase in the number of detective agencies in the city offering "mistress-hunting" services for suspicious wives or husbands.

Those agencies were registered as consulting companies and due to the absence of laws to regulate them at that time, they traded in personal information.

An insider told the Wuhan Evening News that detective agencies were collapsing because police had cracked down on their information sources.

The man, surnamed Hu, told the newspaper the detectives had an online chat group where they could ask for anyone's private information and where sellers would state price.

"Those sellers are usually workers in the industries of telecom, real estate, banking or even government administrations. Some are even senior officials who can provide more detailed information," said Hu.

He said police had cracked down on the chat group and arrested some of the information sellers, which had caused the detection business to crash.

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