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China orders mobile phone users to disclose real names amid privacy concerns

09-02-2010 11:02 BJT

BEIJING, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- China Wednesday implemented a system requiring mobile phone users to provide their real names when buying a telephone number, in a move to combat spam and fraud.

As of Wednesday, new customers will have to register with their identity card numbers or other valid documents when buying a pre-paid SIM card from mobile phone operators.

Foreigners living in China are also required to register with their passports or ID cards to subscribe.

In Beijing, street newspaper stands were told by the Beijing Post to suspend selling mobile phone SIM cards until revised phone number selling procedures are devised.

The Beijing Post supplies newspapers, magazines and telephone subscription cards to newspaper stands in the Chinese capital.

For those who have already bought pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards, the operators -- China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom -- will renew their registration in a gradual way and their mobile phone services will not be affected.

Mobile phone users in China exceeded 800 million at the end of June while fixed-line users numbered 300 million, according to MIIT figures.

Before the new system, standard mobile phone users and fixed-line telephone customers had to register with their real names when subscribing.

Hong Daode, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said the registration of mobile phone users' real names will deter spammers and fraudsters.

"Police can easily track down criminal suspects if they use their mobile phones to commit telecom fraud," Hong said.

The new requirement, however, has sparked concern about possible leakage of personal ID numbers and other personal information.

"Privacy is an issue that concerns many people," said Lu Tingjie, professor and faculty dean at the School of Economics and Management at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

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