Call for law to protect netizens

Updated: 2012-12-24 07:55

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

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Call for law to protect netizens

Experts said legislation is the best way to protect residents' private information on the Internet and provide a safer online environment.

With private information, including bank account numbers and passwords, being leaked online in recent years, many people have realized the urgency of properly protecting their privacy, experts said.

In December 2011, about 40 million users' passwords at Tianya Club, a major Internet forum, were leaked, and it has become common for Internet users to receive spam messages and calls from strangers.

Ding Junjie, a professor at the Communication University of China in Beijing, said such problems are inevitable with the development of the Internet, but their negative effects should not be underestimated.

He suggested upgrading current regulations and guidelines on Internet information into a law, to better protect online users' privacy.

"Although we have some regulations on cyber security and a few Internet companies also have their own guidelines to prevent information leaks, it's far from enough," he said, adding that current regulations are "fragile" and people with malicious intent can easily break them.

"To deter those who intend to make illegal money by selling others' privacy, strong legislation seems to be the most effective solution."

Ding said a law will be helpful in the implementation of an online real-name system, where users cannot hide their identity behind an online pseudonym.

Some micro-blogging services started to enforce a real-name system from March 16, aiming to stop online rumors and create a healthy online environment.

Now people who wish to register a micro-blogging account must provide their identity card number and wait for the police to match the information, said Li Zheng from Tencent Weibo, one of China's most popular micro-blogging platforms.

"The policy only targets newcomers, and all users can still use their Internet names, because their information is hidden and protected behind the platform," Li said.

Shen Yang, a professor at Wuhan University, said the real-name system adds to the workload of these companies and has led to complaints from netizens, but if the policy is properly carried out, it does more good than harm to the development of the Internet.

The regulations and punishments determined by the government and companies should have a legal basis, he said.

(China Daily 12/24/2012 page4)