In response to the recent coronavirus outbreak (“2019-nCoV”), a wide range of Chinese regulators, including many levels of local governments (down to the neighborhood committee level) and local public security bureaus (“PSBs”), have been actively collecting personal information to monitor and potentially mitigate the spread of the outbreak. For example, Shenzhen PSB has issued a notice requiring residents or visitors to Shenzhen to scan a QR code to fill in personal information, such as their contact details, addresses, travel information, and health status. The Shanghai Municipal People’s Government also issued a similar notice requiring residents returning to Shanghai from an out-of-town trip or visitors to report a similar set of personal information.
In practice, numerous additional third party entities, including airports, train stations, employers, and landlords, could engage in collecting extensive personal information from travelers or visitors to a particular location or area, due to their own reporting obligations. For instance, visitors to office buildings may be obliged to report their health status to the landlord or building management. Also, employers are required to closely monitor the health status of employees if the employers apply to the local government to re-open their offices or factories.
With the widespread practice of information collection for public health purposes, data breaches and misuse of data become a major concern of the public. For example, it has been reported that travelers from Wuhan to other cities within China have been victims of data breaches after submitting their personal information to transportation entities and local regulators. A document entitled “List of Individuals Returning to Ningdu From Wuhan” was leaked to various WeChat groups in January 2020 and contained the personal information, including telephone numbers, national identification numbers, and home addresses, of approximately four to five hundred data subjects. Similar incidents happened across China and the sources of the leaks remain uncertain. Continue Reading