In early 2018, Chinese artist Deng Yufeng purchased and publically displayed the personal information of over 340,000 individuals. Entitled “Secrets,” the exhibit intended to highlight the ease with which personal information could be bought and sold. Two days after opening, the exhibition was shut down by local police, and Deng was placed under investigation.

Deng’s exhibit reveals how China’s illegal data market is flourishing despite increasingly strict regulation. The types of information illicit data brokers can collect is alarming. And, in China, despite the intrinsic value of data, it’s dirt cheap.

Malicious actors can buy mobile phone location and movement data, credit information, academic records, and phone records for as little as $0.01. Numerous high profile, low-cost data theft cases have made headlines in the past year. From Apple employees stealing iPhone user data and restaurant owners siphoning off customer information from food delivery apps to hackers taking advantage of mobile network vulnerabilities, personal data is chronically being targeted.

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Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.