China's Internet users incurred a total loss of about 80.5 billion yuan (S$17.8 billion) over the past year due to personal information leaks, junk messages and web fraud, according to a research report released by the Internet Society of China on Wednesday.
The 2015 report on the protection of Chinese Internet users' rights was published by the society's 12321 report centre for bad Internet information, a platform set up by the society and commissioned by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
The number of people on the Internet reached 668 million in June in China, the China Internet Network Information Center said on Thursday. However, 78.2 per cent of Web users had experienced personal identity information leaks, including their name, educational background, family address, identity card number and work place, according to the report.
The report also said 63.4 per cent of Web users had encountered leaks of information about their online activities, including phone call records, online shopping records, Website browser history, IP addresses, software using habits and the users' locations. And online shopping has become the biggest source of information leakage.
Hao Zhichao, deputy director of the 12321 report centre, said the centre receives a large number of reports on personal information leakage every day. In addition to personal identity information mentioned above, personal information leaked also includes email accounts and passwords, car and house purchase information, as well as medical information.
Hao said, more than 80 per cent of Internet users feel their lives were disrupted due to information leakage.
Over the past year, a total of around 80.5 billion yuan, or 124 yuan for every Internet user, was lost due to info leaks. About 45 million Internet users suffered a loss of more than 1,000 yuan.
The lack of awareness in protecting personal and others' information is one of the reasons that Internet users are vulnerable in terms of personal information leakage, said Li Yuxiao, chief of Internet Management and Law Research Center under Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
Li also believes that the absence of a legal system to protect personal information is another reason to blame.
In an encouraging sign, Chinese authorities published a draft cyber security law on July 6 to solicit public opinions.
The draft law, which has an independent chapter on cyber information security, gives a clear definition of people's personal information, regulates the network operators' rights and responsibilities and gives out specific punitive measures.
Li said the move is a big step forward to protect personal information, compared with only using regulations or judicial explanations.
As to how to best safeguard Internet users' rights, Hao said it is the primary solution for Internet users themselves to prevent information leakage and protect their rights. Therefore, it is essential to educate people and raise awareness.