Chinese lawmakers have called for more effective response systems to better protect personal information.[Special Coverage]
China's Ministry of Public Security said on Friday that police in 2016 arrested 4,261 suspects in 1,886 cases related to infringement of personal information.
Among the suspects, 391 were insiders in industries including banking, education, telecommunications, delivery services, the stock market and e-commerce, said the ministry.
The Internet Society of China estimated junk messages, leaked personal information and fraud led to losses of about 91.5 billion yuan (about 13.2 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016.
Ma Huateng, national lawmaker and chairman and chief executive officer of Tencent, a leading Internet company, said there are about 1.5 million people doing illegal business online, citing government figures.
"The government shall create an industry standard for web data safety. It should coordinate telecommunications, finance and Internet companies to better handle information leaks. A system needs to be built for people to make reports of information leaks so that relevant organizations can perform damage control as early as possible," Ma said.
Shao Zhiqing, lawmaker and deputy director of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, said the potential for huge profits is driving the increase in information leaks. "The most urgent thing to do is to cut off the profit chain," he said.
"We must establish a rule governing the trade and communication of big data. Controllability and safety are the most important thing in data flow," he said, while emphasizing the need to limit the black market.
Companies have rarely been punished for leaking the information of their users, experts said.
"The law should identify parties responsible for protecting personal information, and punitive measures shall be made more harsh," said Chen Jingying, deputy head of Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance.
"We need to set high fines for those who infringe upon personal information. Repeat violations shall be considered serious criminal offenses," Chen said.
Police in Bengbu City of Anhui Province announced on Friday that 96 suspects had been caught for hacking into the servers of Internet companies and stealing more than 5 billion items of personal information in the transportation, logistics, medical, social and banking fields.
The stolen information was traded online or used to hack into bank accounts. Police in more than 14 provinces and municipalities joined together to catch the suspects.