Twitter account claims to leak personal information of China's business tycoons, party officials

A Twitter account under the name "shenfenzheng" has exposed personal information on dozens of Chinese Communist Party officials and industry figures.
A Twitter account under the name "shenfenzheng" has exposed personal information on dozens of Chinese Communist Party officials and industry figures. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Personal information on dozens of Chinese Communist Party officials and captains of industry from Jack Ma to Wang Jianlin may have been exposed on Twitter in one of the country's biggest online leaks of sensitive information.

Posts on Twitter from an account under the name "shenfenzheng" - many of which have since been deleted - claim to show everything from official ID cards to the residential addresses of prominent people in government, banking, technology and industry. 

In some cases, their children's alleged details were also published. Bloomberg has verified that at least two of the ID numbers posted in that fashion were authentic.

The incident underscores the challenge facing China in policing the spread of information within its borders, even as it imposes rigid controls on the Internet through the world's largest firewall. It shows China is susceptible to the sort of privacy leaks that have become commonplace in other countries.

Shenfenzheng, a name that literally translates as "personal ID", tweeted that the intention was to expose how potentially sensitive information on Chinese individuals - no matter how senior - can be easily procured through black-market channels.

Information on executives can be dredged up through publicly available filings and databases, but access is typically limited to licensed professionals who must be verified and can be tracked.

"It's easy to figure out anybody's information, whether you're a government official or a celebrity," shenfenzheng tweeted earlier. "Getting the common people's data is like buying cabbage."

If accurate, the information posted could be used to infiltrate social media and bank accounts. It could also be an embarrassment to agencies tasked with safeguarding the data.

The Public Security Ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

Information was posted purporting to disclose details of Alibaba Group Holding chairman Jack Ma, Tencent Holdings chairman Ma Huateng, Xiaomi Corp. co-founder Lei Jun, Dalian Wanda Group Co. founder Wang Jianling and Sany Heavy Industry Co. chairman Liang Wengen.

Officials targeted included the governor of a major province.

Bloomberg could not verify the accuracy of all the data. Xiaomi and Sany declined to comment. Alibaba and Tencent did not respond to requests for comment, while Gree was not immediately available. Wanda said it had no immediate comment.

The leaking of such information is a violation of Chinese law, punishable through fines and up to three years behind bars.

Twitter, which is not accessible from within the country except through a virtual private network, also bans the posting of another person's private information. It was not clear how or when tweets were removed from the account. Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler declined to comment on individual users for privacy reasons.

The mass exposure of information is reminiscent of a series of celebrity hackings around the globe.

In one of the largest attacks of that nature, hackers gained access to accounts on Apple Inc.'s iCloud and posted nude photographs online of their celebrity victims - including model Kate Upton and actress Jennifer Lawrence.

"Are you surprised at all this information? I hope this encourages the nation's scrutiny, and shows how worthless individual data is in China," shenfenzheng tweeted.