Published: 10:57, June 13, 2024
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Four convicted of selling celebrities' flight details
By Zhou Wenting in Shangha

A court in Shanghai has found four people guilty of selling entertainment stars' personal information, including flight itineraries and ID card numbers, the Shanghai High People's Court said on Tuesday.

They sold roughly 15,000 pieces of celebrities' personal data and made between 7,000 yuan ($965) and 23,000 yuan each. The Jing'an District People's Court recently convicted them of infringing on citizens' personal information and handed down sentences ranging from six months with probation — meaning they will not serve six months in prison if they behave themselves during a year of observation — to three years with probation.

The domestic entertainment market has regained its vibrancy since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many pop stars embarking on concert tours around the country since early last year. Some fans are eager to get a closer glimpse of stars at airports, and some unscrupulous individuals have discovered a business opportunity to take advantage of their fascination.

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Late last year, police in Shanghai's Jing'an district found that some people were selling citizens' personal information, including entertainment stars' flight itineraries, on social media platforms. In January, police caught two suspects, surnamed Yin and Wu, in Shanghai and two others — a couple surnamed Lian and Guo — in Shenyang, Liaoning province.

"The information they sold covered a surprisingly wide range, and even included some celebrities' mobile phone numbers," said Zhang Lanyu, an assistant to prosecutors at the Jing'an District People's Procuratorate.

She said they sold the celebrities' flight information to fans on online social platforms for prices ranging from 5 yuan to 10 yuan apiece. They purchased the celebrities' ID card numbers in bulk from others for dozens of yuan apiece and then sold them later.

"If a citizen's personal information, including flight itineraries, is sold, it may allow others to know his or her whereabouts, which may pose a threat to their personal safety," said Zheng Yi, a prosecutor at the district procuratorate.

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Prosecutors told the court the defendants obtained the celebrities' personal information illegally, mainly through online purchases and using the celebrities' ID card numbers to search for their flight information on airlines' websites.

"Such a function was at first designed to make it easy for passengers to check their flight information, but it was exploited by lawbreakers in this case," Zheng said. "We found that some airlines have noticed the loophole and made adjustments to their query systems."

Prosecutors said some online platforms contain quite a lot of information about the sale and purchase of entertainment stars' flight itineraries. Police are carrying out further investigations of the upstream and downstream chains related to the case.