The personal data of people who have ordered food delivery is readily available for sale via several channels, investigative reporting by The Beijing News has discovered (in Chinese). Data on offer includes information such as name, phone number, address of thousands of orderers per day, including for orders going to hospitals and even to specific seats in internet cafes. The data is being sold for as little as RMB 0.10 per person.

By infiltrating telephone sales companies who buy up the profiles for cold calling, The Beijing News journalists learned that the suppliers are using software to scrape data from order systems and that even take away delivery drivers have been found to be selling the info.

Chen Jinghong sells data on QQ about orderers in first-tier cities. He sells data a rate of 10,000 profiles for RMB 800. He offers the undercover journalists 5,000 profiles and sends a screen grab of an Excel sheet of the data, promising it can be delivered in 15 minutes. The data does not show the date of the order, but he promises it is from within the last two to three days. The journalist agrees, Chen sends a QR code for payment and within 15 minutes the journalist gets the file.

To check it, the journalist picks 100 numbers at random and calls them. 61 were valid numbers that rang, 33 people took the call and confirmed they had placed the order in the last couple of months. When asked why some numbers hadn’t worked, Chen said it’s because of the data entry system, who enter the details of 40,000 orders daily, but that when his data is ready by noon each day, it will definitely be sold by the end of the day.

The journalist found that data was available from all the major platforms such as and Baidu Waimai.

Internet companies that run takeaway shops were also found to be selling on their customer data, including the details of the food itself. This data is more expensive at RMB 0.50 per person, but newer and richer. More expensive still at around RMB 1 per order is the data directly from delivery staff. This comes either in the form of screen shots of the delivery order the drivers are using, or the paper dockets generated and stapled to the parcels of food.

Online data theft is becoming ubiquitous with a report by the Internet Society of China finding that nearly 80% of web users had had their personal information leaked. Last month an artist in Wuhan bought up the data of 346,000 people and put it on display, inviting the people to come and see it. A chip has been developed that attaches to SIM cards to verify user ID without them having to supply their details each time as one way to reduce data leakage.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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