China's top judicial organ announced on Tuesday that those found guilty of telecom fraud and blackmail would be sentenced to up to seven years in prison for illegally selling over 500 pieces of personal information.
China's Criminal Law states that whoever sells or provides any citizen's personal information should be sentenced to up to seven years if the circumstances are especially serious.
The Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate issued a judicial interpretation, stipulating that "especially serious circumstances" refers to those who illegally obtain over 500 or sell over 5,000 or provide 50,000 pieces of personal information, or make over 50,000 yuan ($7,240). The interpretation takes effect on June 1.
Furthermore, crimes which lead to victims' death, serious injury or mental disorder are likewise considered "especially serious situations."
The interpretation said "citizen's personal information" includes their name, ID number, contact, address or whereabouts.
Xu Yuyu, a high school graduate from Linyi, Shandong Province, died in August 2016 after being swindled of 9,900 yuan ($1,488). Two days later, 21-year-old college student Song Zhenning died of a heart attack after being conned out of 2,000 yuan.
Police say they were swindled because their personal information was revealed to the con men.
The interpretation also says that anyone who works for the information industry will be punished more severely if they leak citizen's personal information.
In August 2016, an employee of Chinese courier service provider SF Express was tried in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province for leaking 1.8 million pieces of customers' information after he sold his company account to someone else, the Nandu Daily reported.
The two major ways of illegally obtaining citizen's personal information are that hackers break into a website and that industry insiders reveal citizen's information, China National Radio (CNR) reported.
In 2016, police solved more than 2,100 cases involving the violation of citizen's personal information, and detained 5,000 people, CNR said, adding that 450 of them worked in banks, schools, telecom companies and the courier business.