CCTV targets sci-tech firms over data misuse

Several companies were found using data boxes to collect personal information and using robots to make unwanted calls, CCTV alleged in a program on World Consumer Rights Day.

A Shanghai-based company was among the many science and technology firms nationwide which were found to be making products that collected personal data information which was misused by private entities.

The CCTV program alleged that Zhizi Information Science and Technology Co Ltd was the manufacturer and seller of a data collection box that was misused by its users who used the consumers' personal information for marketing purposes.

It is being investigated by the market watchdog and police in Yangpu District for suspected infringement of personal information after the company was exposed on the China Central Television's annual "3.15" investigation program on World Consumer Rights Day.

Real estate agents used robots to make the nuisance calls. Some of the robots could even simulate the voice of Taiwanese actress and model Lin Chi-ling, CCTV claimed.

The robots cost 3,000 yuan (US$446) and they could be purchased from Shenzhen-based ZK-LINK, another sci-tech company. It was specifically developed for telemarketing purposes, a manager surnamed Wang with ZK-LINK said.

Wang said the intelligent robot was popular among these companies, and "the company had cooperation with big online real estate platforms," the CCTV program alleged.

Shenzhen-based Yige Science and Technology Co Ltd also made and sold the robots.

"The robots sound like real people," said a manager surnamed Zhuo with the company. "It is extremely popular," he said.

Shaanxi-based Yilong Xinke Artificial Intelligence Science and Technology Co Ltd has a professional recording studio where voices of real people are simulated.

"Lin Chi-ling's voice is very attractive," said a Yilong manager surnamed Wu.

"A robot can make 5,000 calls in a day," Zhu Jianqiu, president of Shanghai-based Zhizi Information Science and Technology Co Ltd told the program.

A human being can make between 300 and 500 calls per day, a manager surnamed Sun of Miaodi Science and Technology Co Ltd, said.

Yilong Xinke said its robots had made more than 4 billion calls in a year.

The program claimed that the record of such crank calls could not be tracked.

Some companies made data collection boxes, which can recognize the Media Access Control Address (MAC) of people after they open their WIFI LAN network to search for a WIFI network.

Shenzhen-based Soundtooth Science and Technology Co Ltd claimed it had information of about 600 million people nationwide.

The data boxes can even make an accurate portrait of cell phone users, the program said.

"We will know their age and gender, their cell phones and key words they search the most on the Internet," said a manager surnamed Tan who works with Bihe Science and Technology Co Ltd.

In some cases, marriage information, education level and even salary details can be obtained through apps installed on the cell phones, the program claimed.

Shanghai-based Zhizi Information Science and Technology Co Ltd sold the boxes, and the active use of the box ranged between 5,000 and 10,000 daily, it was alleged.

The personal information are used by real estate, auto and finance firms, education training, loan and plastic surgery companies, the program claimed.

The boxes are placed at convenience stores, shopping malls, office buildings, supermarkets and areas with lots of human traffic to collect data. 

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