Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba
Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images
By David Z. Morris
May 14, 2016

Tech in Asia reports that the state ID numbers and other sensitive personal information of powerful Chinese figures, including Alibaba founder Jack Ma, has been leaked via Twitter. The information was released through an anonymous account that has since been suspended.

Other victims of the release include Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man; real estate developer Pan Shiyi; and Hu Xijin, editor of the state-run newspaper Global Times.

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In addition to state ID numbers, the data dump included addresses and even full images of ID cards themselves. According to Tech in Asia, the state ID numbers, much like U.S. Social Security Numbers, could be used to do things like conduct bank transfers or set up fake online accounts in the holders’ names.

There are a few hints at the motivations of the leaker. A tweet from the account read in part: “I hope this will make my countrymen think about how worthless their personal privacy is, so that even the whereabouts of the rich and famous can be easily monitored.”

Another victim of the release was Fang Binxing, a Communist Party leader credited with the creation of China’s “Great Firewall” system of internet censorship. Fang has previously been the target of protests by opponents of China’s censorship and security policies, including an incident in 2011 when a student threw shoes at him during a university address.

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Similarly, Hu’s Global Times has been criticized by China’s own regulators for irresponsible reporting that could be described as nationalist and militarist. Another reported leak victim was Sima Nan, a political commentator associated with so-called “wumao,” or passionate online defenders of the Communist state.

It all points to an opponent of state power looking to tweak the Chinese establishment. There has been no indication yet as to the source of the data, and as Tech in Asia points out, it’s difficult or impossible to confirm its accuracy. Though the data has been removed from Twitter (TWTR), copies reportedly remain in circulation online.


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