Chinese university confirms personal information breach; lawyer says it constitutes infringement of privacy
Published: Jul 03, 2023 12:24 AM


Photo: screenshot

Renmin University of China (RUC) has acknowledged that some students' information were illegally acquired, it has contacted the police as it takes such matters very seriously, a notice released by the university on Sunday said.

The RUC said it has been cooperating with the police for further investigation. 

The university strongly condemned the act of infringing personal privacy and harming information security in its notice. 

A postgraduate from the RUC reportedly stole photos and personal information of students of the entire university, including undergraduates and post graduates, and then used all that information to create a website that grades how good students look.

The website reportedly collected students' names, student IDs, dates and regions of birth, according to screenshots circulating online.

The suspected student is reportedly a 2019-batch graduate student of Gaoling School of Artificial Intelligence (GSAI) affiliated to the RUC, has now graduated, and joined Tencent. The information is yet to be confirmed by the RUC.

The hashtag "Renmin University of China information leakage" had been trending on social media platform Sina Weibo over the weekend. It has aroused much controversy, with many asking what kind of legal responsibility the suspect will face.

China pays high attention to protecting personal information. China's law on personal information protection came into effect in 2021. Activities such as collection, processing and trading of personal information are strictly monitored, and any related infringements are to be punished, according to the law.

Liu Changsong, a lawyer with Beijing Mugong Law Firm, told the Global Times on Sunday that the suspect who established the website is suspected of the crime of infringing citizens' personal information given the huge number of students involved. The suspect may be investigated for criminal responsibility.

The person who sells or provides to another person personal information of a citizen, if the circumstances are serious, shall be sentenced to a fixed-term imprisonment of no more than three years or criminal detention and a fine, Liu said.

If the circumstances are especially serious, the person shall be sentenced to a fixed-term imprisonment of no less than three years but not more than seven years and shall also be fined, Liu noted. 

The RUC is a Beijing-based leading university in China with more than 20,049 full-time students.