China contemplates privacy legislation

07 March 2005

Vanessa Huang

China has decided to introduce legislation to tackle the misuse of personal data in daily life. The Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has drafted the Personal Data Protection Act of the People’s Republic of China and submitted the draft Act to the Information Office of the State Council in January 2005.

Personal data is collected and used extensively in Chinese society. For example, over 100 items of personal data are collected for social insurance cards and other electronic cards. There are great risks of misuse where personal data is collected, processed and disclosed to third parties.

The Bill aims to balance the free movement of information, which is recognised as important in modern society, with protection of basic human rights. The scope of the protection will extend to personal mobile phone numbers, family addresses, medical history and career status. The Bill also regulates some ‘hot topics’. For example, it will provide rules for installation and use of cameras in public areas; as well as photography and video recording without consent.

An Office for Protection of Personal Data is expected to be formed as a consequence of the Bill. Once enacted, violation of the Bill will trigger not only civil liability but also administrative and criminal liability.

It is likely that the Bill will be passed fairly soon because of the importance and urgency of the legislation for the protection of personal data.