Chinese Officials With Government Access To Every Kind Of Personal Data Are Selling It Online

from the with-great-power-comes-great-corruption dept

Back in 2015, Techdirt wrote about a government project in China that involves “citizen scores,” a rating system that will serve as a measure of a person’s political compliance. The authorities aim to do that by drawing on the huge range of personal data that we all generate in our daily use of the Internet. The data would be scooped up from various public and private services and fed into an algorithm to produce an overall citizen score that could be used to reward the obedient and punish the obstreperous. Naively, we might suppose that only authoritarian governments could ever obtain all that highly-revealing information, but an article from reveals that is far from the case. It discusses some great journalism from Guangzhou’s Southern Metropolis Daily, whose reporters documented their success in buying every kind of personal data about colleagues from “tracking” services advertised online:

For a modest fee of 700 yuan, or about 100 dollars, the reporters were able to obtain an astonishing array of information based on one colleague’s personal ID number, including a full history of hotel rooms checked into, airline flights taken, internet cafes visited, border entries and exits, apartment rentals, real estate holdings — even deposit records from the country’s four major banks.

But that wasn’t all. The reporters were also able to purchase live location data on another colleague’s mobile phone, pinpointing their position with disturbing accuracy.

The article points out the inevitable conclusion from this journalistic investigation: officials within the government who have ready access to this personal information are happy to sell it to anyone for low prices, no questions asked. It’s possible some of the databases have been hacked by outsiders, but it seems unlikely that online break-ins could make enough of them accessible, enough of the time. Corrupt officials with continuous access would be a more reliable source for these tracking services, of which there are hundreds. concludes:

We often imagine China as having the kind of centralized authoritarian system that might be capable of implementing a watertight and monolithic system of digital social controls. And certainly, in the digital age, there is merit in the idea that an expansive hold on big data may possess the key to political power. But as data becomes ever more precious, securing this resource could become virtually impossible — particularly in a system like China’s, which lacks adequate legal and political protections.

That’s an important point that’s often overlooked. As well as the immense power that mass surveillance confers on the authorities, it also creates a wonderful resource for corrupt officials to access and sell. It would be naive in the extreme to think that this is only a problem for China, and that it won’t happen with the ever-widening surveillance systems that Western nations want to set up. It’s yet another reason not to build them in the first place.

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Comments on “Chinese Officials With Government Access To Every Kind Of Personal Data Are Selling It Online”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

At the collective level WE or THEY deserve it.

On the individual level whether or not YOU or I deserve it is indeterminate and a pointless foray on who is to blame. It is the collective actions of the citizens that dictates government direction and NOT the individual.

Therefore, the guilt will always a collective one, but not necessarily an individual one depending upon the actions of each individual. This is where the quote comes into play, because regardless of your individual guilt or actions we all share responsibility for the actions of government regardless.

I “could” deserve it, but you need far more information to understand if that is true or not. A wise person will understand these things straight away, but a fool will not.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hello again Joseph

Ah good old poisoning the well, ‘If you’re smart you’ll agree with me, if you’re a fool you won’t.’

You were doing decently enough before you slipped in that last bit, leading me to wonder if you like undermining your own arguments for some reason, or perhaps you just like throwing out insults and don’t care what it does to any argument you might present.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Its more like, “If you are an utterly boring homebody with no friends, then you have nothing to hide.”

Pervasive surveillance is a sword of damocles that invisibly pressures people to be as uninteresting as possible.

Looks like as those SciFi stories about people in the future being giant heads with atrophied bodies leading completely beige lives might have been on to something after all.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Corruption, noun: What happens in other countries'

It would be naive in the extreme to think that this is only a problem for China, and that it won’t happen with the ever-widening surveillance systems that Western nations want to set up. It’s yet another reason not to build them in the first place.

Nonsense, it’s happening there because China is filled to the brim with commie-criminal-terrorists, such a system would never be abused in the Holy US of A because our politicians and government agencies are filled with nothing less than genius saints, every one of them a nominee for a Nobel Prize and a confirmed vegan pacifist.

To err or give in to corruption is part of human nature, but here in the Holy Empire we vote in only those that surpass humanity and such petty concerns, so any worry over such base activities taking place here is utterly without support and downright Un-American, which of course no proper citizen would ever even consider doing.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Corruption, noun: What happens in other countries'

Quite right, even if the impossible happened and a politician that was less than absolutely perfect managed to slip through and remain undetected, the flawless legal system would without fail prevent them from causing any damaage, which just makes it even more clear that so much as mentioning the possibility is completely and utterly Un-American and an indication of a seriously warped, perhaps even communist mindset.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Corruption, noun: What happens in other countries'

You put people in power, you will have corruption. There isn’t a government on this planet without some form of corruption. The bigger the government it seems, the bigger the corruption. I think the only hope in this is you try to keep the government as small as possible to minimize the damage.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Corruption, noun: What happens in other countries'

All that “small government” does is create a power and services vacuum for others to fill. And guess what? Because they now have power, they too can become corrupt.

Where did you anarchists get the idea from that doing things for money purifies you of all evil and that the need to make money from selling goods and services keeps you honest due to the fear that people might stop trading with you if you don’t behave?

Surely to goodness experience itself should have taught you otherwise by now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'Corruption, noun: What happens in other countries'

“Where did you anarchists get the idea from that doing things for money purifies you of all evil and that the need to make money from selling goods and services keeps you honest due to the fear that people might stop trading with you if you don’t behave?”

Who said anything about being an anarchists? Just slap a label on someone huh? I suggested keeping the Government as small “as possible”, and that makes me an anarchist?

“Surely to goodness experience itself should have taught you otherwise by now.”

Your right, it has. 20 Trillion in debt, corruption on a scale rarely seen in history, the middle class being destroyed while the rich use their money to buy politicians. A health care system that is wrecked. Social Security is wrecked. Jobs are improving, but were coming out of a wrecked economy (I do partially blame the Gov for this). We have the largest prison population – wrecked. We have a military style police system – wrecked. How is a big and over-bloated government working for us right now? I would argue not so well.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'Corruption, noun: What happens in other countries'

That is a valid response in a lot of cases but maybe you are seeing the “small government” dogwhistle that isn’t there. (I am not necessarily certain myself.) Even though i don’t also agree that size is what matters most wrt corruption. Less police, healthcare, or Social Security isn’t going to un-wreck anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'Corruption, noun: What happens in other countries'

“Less police, healthcare, or Social Security isn’t going to un-wreck anything.”

I think an effective Government would naturally be the proper size. Take the police for example;

If we got rid of frivolous laws and stopped jailing people for 20 years for non-violent offenses, we would have less jails, less police, less legal system. If the police spent as much time and energy engaging the population, and building trust and respect through their actions as they do buying military grade equipment, if we held them accountable, if we trained them better, if we spent more time weeding out the bad apples, they may not NEED to be the size of a small army and have tanks.

I believe they would shrink or grow to the size that’s needed by themselves if done proper. IMO Simply throwing more money and manpower at the problem doesn’t seem to be working.

Anonymous Coward says:

GPS location sharing

This is the part that jumped out at me.

The reporters were also able to purchase live location data on another colleague’s mobile phone, pinpointing their position…

The question I have is this: How was this service able to access the GPS location on the mobile phone?

The answers I can think of include unauthorized access, careless OS programming (leaving GPS location sharing enabled and publicly accessible), and backdoor.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: GPS location sharing

You don’t need GPS to late someone’s mobile phone to an already accurate degree. Cell towers can estimate the distance to the phone, then you can triangulate actual position from three towers or more. Not quite as accurate as GPS, but good enough for most needs.
That’s why the only way not to be located is to completely turn it off.

Celeste Guanini says:

Re: GPS location sharing

Unlike here in the US, in China they are quite open about the fact that all phones are tracked by owner, province, address, etc.(that’s what the Huawei chip fuss was all about.) You can still buy hot phones and tossers on the street, but those are, well, hot- and when you buy it, you are on camera already.

Hey- does this sound like….America? The Chinese knew all o ht already.

And also unlike the US, all citizens know this fact of real time tracking going into it. What has happened here in America makes the Chinese gov look naive or innocent, as they actually track you less as citizens are tracked from birth.

Hey- does his sound like….?

Beyond all the drama of Snowden’s reveals, it is plainly bizarre-insane by definition- that American’s are walking around with the illusion that “our guys” are better or more moral than their guys, when it was “our guys” who sneaked all of this warrantless stuff on the unsuspecting sans due process(wutz th@t?).

So- I chuckle every time I read an article about Chinese censorship, or how the ‘godless Chinese!!’ are ‘live censoring of Weibo!’ when in fact, Fakebook, and Twatter, GeoFedia and the rest has been feeding all of us via firehose straight to British/FiveEyes spies who do the FBI’s really dirty work (gee, how DID they catch that bad man Ross Ulbricht anyways?)

Or how the DEA SOD program was feeding everyone leads for years until they burned it; and NSA feeding us wholesale to Israeli trolls and speech police since forever. And those trolls have been manipulating elections here and elsewhere for over a decade-worst ever under Obama the Transparent.

Gee I can’t figure out why China wouldn’t allow all of ‘our’ media giants like Google (and Fake Google which sometimes returns results in Yahoo, courtesy of the NSA) into it’s markets…

China’s “Great Cannon” met “America’s Free Speech and Entrapment Steamroller” scheme and China came out looking like human rights champions o the highest moral fiber.

In fact, unlike here where the US has been cracking Tor with man on the side and MIM attacks since at least 2008, in China you can run a node and you only get picked off if you are open about it, sloppy and not running noise or cover profiles, or new to the area looking for pizza delivery and a burger joint.

Then, if you’re dicovered, they just cut your connection entirely, and you get a strange encounter with a citizen who finds you fascinating, and somehow knows where you live rather than using you as human intel to exploit, or a mind control subject whose entire life is catalogued in a deep hole in Utah for compliance and leverage. That only happens here and in the FiveEyes.

And the end game isn’t looking any more pretty cuz it only gets worse after gov’s target their own people for wholesale exploitation. China knew this already….

musterion (profile) says:

Is China the testing grounds for Samaritan?

“Person of Interest” reference. If you have not seen this show, I highly recommend it.

If data can be collected, it will be collected.
If data can be abused, it will be abused.

The old canard “If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear” becomes meaningless when the definition of wrong is slippery or subject to vast interpretation.

Celeste Guanini says:

Re: an fuck you, too, coward.

And so morons like you derive what? Like, 807 per month for selling Americans to internetional banksters?

Wut next- adopting “foster children” for another cool 6-8 benjamins per month? What a stupid cowardly heap fuck you are-metaphorically, of course. I don’t mean that as a personal attack or an ad hom in the “personal” Utah database filed up by shitbags sense.

Army pay scale:

Anonymous Coward says:

Too much power for anyone to have…….without consent to boot

Big government evil by its very nature

Monarch to governments to companies

Gang mentality the norm, when it should be the exception, with no regard for the right of the individual…..thats what we have…..oh, and liars and hypocrasy’s

Unwilling members of gangs with a false sense of goodness, filled with folks with an interest to keep it that way

Celeste Guanini says:

Re: worse than the jews

Sure you do. And who are you? Yet another ADL sponsored troll, with kewl Chinese characters for a nym. You ADL types have crapped all over the internet like shit-dropping seagulls over Santa Monica pier for waaaaaAAAy too long.

Go home. I mean, back to Bethlehem,or wherever your types are from, and all of your shit-stained religious mythology can guide you to the next holohoaxism/racism/classism/anti-contstitutionalism/ADL sponsored word bombers killing babies elsewhere-ism.

I mean really. Go AWAY.

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