Measures to safeguard privacy and enshrine real-name requirements for Web users were included in a 12-article decision that was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on Friday.
The decision, which also deals with electronic spamming, takes effect immediately and has the same legal effect as a law. It regulates for the first time that the State should protect online information that bears someone's personal identity and relates to privacy, along with punitive measures for violations.
"In spite of various regulations adopted by the State Council and by authorities in certain regions to deal with the issue since 2000, the laws safeguarding online information are generally weak due to the lack of over-arching laws," Li Fei, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission under the NPC Standing Committee, told reporters Friday.
According to the new regulations, all organizations, government agencies or individuals are forbidden from stealing, illegally collecting, trading or unlawfully providing the personal information of others.
In regard to the collection and use of personal information, network service providers and enterprises should abide by the law and receive people's consent before providing their information, reads the decision.
Meanwhile, disseminating commercial digital messages through cellphones, landlines or e-mails without the recipient's consent has also been banned, in an effort to crack down on the public's complaints of rampant spam.
Citizens are now entitled to demand service providers delete information if they feel badgered or their personal information is illegally revealed online.
The new rule also requires service providers for cellphones, landlines, Internet services and online postings to register the real identity of new subscribers.
"Setting up an identity management system is a standardized path being followed by many nations, after the public demanded it be included," Li said.
Li also said the public is overly concerned about whether their whistle-blowing activities and critical comments will be impaired due to requirements stipulating that network service providers strengthen management and stop illegal transmission of malicious information.
The measure will also require records to be kept of certain illegal transmissions so they can be reported to supervisory authorities.
"This aims to institute a real-name registration system behind the scenes, due to the fact that the contents posted online or circulated via cellphone have been affected by fraudulent information," said Wang Liming, a professor on civil law from the Renmin University of China.
Violators can face penalties including the confiscation of illegal gains, having their licenses revoked or website closed, as well as bans on engaging in Web-related business in the future, according to the decision.
Song Jianwu, dean of the School of Journalism and Media at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that the flow of online information cannot be totally unregulated, as efficient supervision is based on the lawmaking process.
The law came after the detention of over 1,700 suspects during a four-month crackdown on personal information infringement initiated by the Ministry of Public Security in March.
The campaign dug up 38 sources trading personal information and busted 161 information platforms. Government agencies and affiliated public institution employees in fields ranging from finance to telecommunications, education, civil aviation and commerce were also involved.
Agencies contributed to this story