There is a black market offering deeply personal information on people in China, and all you need is $30 and their phone number to check up on someone.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has uncovered a mine of personal data on social media offering up shockingly detailed information such as people’s identity card numbers, home addresses, and even live location data, based off their phones.
Access to an individual’s records costs between 20 yuan ($2.90), and deeper level information goes up to just 220 yuan ($32).
Travel and transport records — including records from top ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing — would cost 55 yuan ($8) each, while phone records was the most expensive, with prices ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 yuan ($218 to $291).
CCTV found sellers advertising these data sources on QQ, China’s largest instant messenger. Some of the group chats had more than 1,900 members within.
An unnamed CCTV reporter managed to purchase his colleague’s personal information as part of the investigation, and his colleague verified the records were accurate.
It was not known how the data was obtained by the sellers.
Sellers also claimed to be able to track someone’s location (within 50 metres) through just a phone number.
CCTV reported that they were able to track the location of an employee accurately, as advertised, twice in one night.
We attempted to search for a similar set of data, and found a few scattered results, with major groups appearing to have been closed or taken offline since the state broadcast aired.
The reporters were able to track live location data.
A report by the Southern Metropolis Daily in January this year found that black market information dealers were selling information for about 700 yuan (or $101) per person, including their identification number, hotel records, flights taken, border entries, apartment rentals, real estate holdings and even deposit records from China’s four major banks.
The reporters were also able to track live location data.
Law enforcement has considered the trading of personal data “a huge underground industry” as early as 2013, but a survey from the Internet Society of China found that nearly one third of Chinese users had lost money from internet fraud, according to the Wall Street Journal.
China has more than 40 laws regarding personal information, but no unified national privacy law.
Mashable has reached out to Didi Chuxing for comment.