Previously, Li Yanhong said, "Chinese people are willing to trade privacy for convenience," and during the epidemic, there were constantly occurring incidents of suspected patient's personal sensitive information being spread. This shows that whether it is large companies with a large amount of personal privacy or the general public, their attitude towards personal privacy is extremely dismissive.
Take the recent case of the Chengdu girl, we won't discuss whether her actions were appropriate or not, but just the fact that her privacy was spread like crazy by netizens shows how insignificant privacy is in the eyes of the public.
2. My Privacy Leak Story#
The reason I want to use this example is because I am a victim of privacy leak. It all started in January when the epidemic broke out.
Because I had traveled through Wuhan before the epidemic broke out, I was listed as a key person of interest. I understood and supported the government's work, so I completed all the required information and reported my travel history. However, a few days later, I received a personal information form in my family group chat. It was the "Returnee Information Form" from xx location, which listed sensitive information such as the names, genders, addresses, and ID numbers of all key persons of interest, and it was completely unredacted.
I immediately contacted the relative who sent me the form, asked her to delete it, and inquired about the source. I found out that she had seen it in another group chat, but she didn't know who had originally shared it.
Since the reporting unit was the government, I immediately contacted the person who had asked me to fill out the information and informed them about the situation.
On the same day, this form spread throughout my area—even the elementary school classmates' group chat sent out this form. It can be imagined how many groups in the entire area saw this form and the sensitive information filled out on it.
3. Deciding to Fight Back#
I reported the incident to the head of the hospital, who then reported it to the government for handling. My initial idea was simple: issue a public announcement to stop this kind of behavior. But what I didn't expect was that this incident would take me three days to deal with. It made me realize how slow this massive machine operates. What surprised me even more was that the biggest obstacle was not the difficulty of handling the incident, but that some people simply didn't want to deal with it.
A few people who had filled out the registration form stood up with me, but a day later, the person in charge told me that everyone else had given up and that I should too.
When I saw this attitude towards handling the situation and the mindless spread in various group chats, with people proudly saying, "The government has already sent it out, what's the problem with me sharing it?" and "Concealing and not reporting is a crime," I went from initially wanting to stop the source to demanding that the spreaders be investigated, publicly apologize, and educate the public about the law.
I did four things:
- Gathered evidence
- Contacted friends for help (police friends)
- Contacted law school classmates to organize legal articles
- Communicated directly with the person in charge at the government
Gathering evidence was simple, and it was actually quite easy to trace the source of the spread. Because I discovered that the background of the image was a typical government red lacquer wood, as long as I followed this clue, it wouldn't be difficult to find the source.
4. Tea Negotiations#
At first, the government official in charge avoided the issue, claiming that it would be difficult to investigate. They didn't want to directly face the problem until I presented various pieces of evidence and legal articles, and even mentioned that if they didn't handle it, I would appeal to higher authorities. Only then did they agree to communicate with me directly.
After several phone conversations, their difficulty was that they couldn't meet one of my conditions—to publicly clarify the matter and issue an apology on the local official public account. The reason they gave was inexplicable: a public apology would only amplify the impact and wouldn't have any effect on stopping the spread. I asked how it wouldn't have any effect on stopping the spread. As long as the illegal nature of this behavior was made public, it would clarify the situation for the parties involved, serve as an apology to them, and educate the public to prevent similar incidents from happening.
After a stalemate, they invited me to the government office for "tea" (a metaphor for a meeting). I went, accompanied by a few friends for support. I won't go into the details of the negotiation, but it is still vivid in my memory. It wasn't a real negotiation, but rather a change of location and a continuation of persuasion with different arguments. In the end, due to our persistence, they agreed to consider my requests. The negotiation ended, and we all went home.
In terms of the negotiation outcome, we had the upper hand. I thought the matter would end there, but it wasn't that simple. The so-called "consideration" after the negotiation was just empty words.
While waiting for the public apology and the handling results, I received a call from my father, informing me that the local official in charge had contacted him about the matter. I explained to my father the cause and effect, as well as why I insisted on pursuing this matter, and he didn't say anything more. So I angrily contacted the person from the government and asked what was going on and what the handling results were. The response I got was still "we are investigating the matter."
The next morning, I was woken up by a call from the local official in charge. He tactfully reminded me that if this matter continued, it wouldn't be beneficial for me or my family. He was a practical person, and I understood the meaning behind his words and the pressure he was under. I said that this matter was important to me, and I must obtain a reasonable resolution.
Until my father called me again, conveying a similar message, I finally gave up.
I continued to persist, hoping for an apology, a clarification, or even just an apology, but instead, it brought unnecessary pressure to my family and affected several households. I didn't care about anything else, I only cared about my family and what we would face in the present and the future. At that moment, it had already exceeded what they could bear.
Is this apology important? Yes, it is very important, but it is worthless compared to family. I decided to give up, negotiate with the government, and they replied that they had informed everyone and strictly prohibited taking photos and spreading personal information.
All I could do was smile. Perhaps this was the only contribution I made to this farce?
6. What This Incident Taught Me#
Now, as I look back on this incident and combine it with some social experiences, I have come to a deeper understanding of certain things. A system that is responsible upwards should not expect bad things to be exposed upwards; the result will only be downward pressure to dilute them. (I recommend taking a look at the Xinyang Incident sixty years ago to gain a deeper understanding of this principle.)
My father advised me because of the pressure from the local official on our family, and the local official advised my father because of the pressure from government performance. The government didn't want to publicly clarify the matter because of the pressure from promotion to higher levels of government. It goes on and on, layer after layer. Therefore, it can only be digested at the lower levels.
If you ask me if I regret it, I don't regret any of the things I did back then. I even thank the determined and stubborn me at that time because it allowed me to see certain truths.
This is my story, a strange experience.
To put it in trendy terms, I was almost "socially dead" back then. Because it was during the epidemic, everyone was in fear, and as soon as they saw this form, many people spread rumors that these individuals were suspected carriers of the virus, and everyone guarded against me as if I were a wolf.
For personal privacy information, the negligence of regulatory agencies, and the relentless enthusiasm of people spreading it, even rapists don't receive this treatment, right?
Thinking about how I received treatment better than a rapist, I don't know whether to cry or laugh.