On Feb. 20, a former employee of Beijing-based apartment rental platform Ziroom was tried at the Tongzhou District Court for illegally obtaining a large amount of personal data. The trial is ongoing, but the evidence presented so far is damning.
In total, over 800,000 entries of personal information were discovered on a laptop, iPhone, and USB drive seized by authorities. Some 70,000 of those were traced to Ziroom customers, Beijing News reported (in Chinese).
The accused was identified only by her last name, Li. According to the court’s procuratorate, she joined the company in April 2017. The data theft was discovered in the first half of 2018 after Li had left the Tencent-backed enterprise.
Ziroom was not able to provide a statement by the time of publication.
According to the Beijing News report, Ziroom employees were given access to personal information and addresses of landlords who had listed properties on the website in Tongzhou District, so that they can maintain good relations with them. However, employees were barred from downloading the information from company servers with technical means. Li admitted that she used external software to download the data without Ziroom’s approval, although she says she stopped after some time.
In addition to obtaining Ziroom landlords’ phone numbers, names, housing contract numbers, and addresses, Li was accused of buying additional personal information online. After leaving Ziroom, she found employment at a company in the same field, although she denied using data from her previous job to further her career. According to the news report, Li passed on the information to third parties, but it is unclear whether her actions were motivated by profit, a desire to advance her career or other reasons.
After discovering the data theft, Ziroom reportedly told police, who followed up on the case.
Ziroom was not immediately available for comment. It’s not the first time the platform has made headlines for safety issues, although previously these took on a different form. Last December, a class-action lawsuit against the company began, brought by tenants who alleged that their apartments had elevated levels of formaldehyde. In September 2018, a couple in Beijing discovered a camera hidden in a power socket of their Ziroom rental home.
In response to the latter two cases, Ziroom has declared it would take measures to improve.