A huge loophole in China's ID card system, in which lost and stolen ID cards cannot be nullified, has raised public concern over the safety of people's personal information and the associated economic risk, as over 1.2 billion Chinese hold the flawed ID cards.
According to a report from Xinhua, lost ID cards cannot be nullified, which leads to illegal trade in the cards and might result in crimes, including money laundering and scams, as well as losses to the card owners.
"There is no way to nullify the lost ID cards. People can only apply for a new card," an officer at the Xuanwu branch of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, surnamed Duan, told the Global Times Tuesday, adding that lost ID cards will still be valid even when the new card is made, meaning that anyone who finds or steals the card can use it as usual.
Many thieves are aware of this loophole and choose to sell the stolen cards, leading to numerous illegal card trades online. Many card buyers plan to use them illegally.
"An ID card is sold at 200 yuan ($32.70). I have over 7,000 valid ID cards at hand, and most of them are from pickpockets at train stations who sell the ID cards directly to me, so they are 100 percent real. All you need to do is to pick out a card which looks like you the most and tell me, I'll deliver it to you," Zhang Tuan, an ID card trader in Beijing, told a Global Times reporter posing as a buyer, adding that most buyers bought them in order to apply for credit cards.
Credit cards are easy to apply at a bank, as the only credentials that the bank needs is a valid ID card. This means that as long as the card holder looks like the person in the picture on the card, he or she will be able to obtain a credit card, which supports overdrafts, and causes economic losses to the real card owner.
However, personal economic loss is not the only social danger caused by the disclosure of personal information. The loophole also leads to many severe problems, including money laundering and scams.
At the same time, many criminals might be able to hide themselves and avoid being arrested by using valid ID cards. Criminals will be able to live in hotels or ride trains without being noticed by police.
"Releasing private information is a crime according to law. The government should come up with new technical measures in terms of ID cards to prevent further criminal cases caused by disclosure of personal information," Zhang Zhiyong, a lawyer with the Chongqing-based Zhihao Law Firm, told the Global Times Tuesday.
More people have been questioning the flawed design of the ID card.
Li Jiang, a deputy to the National People's Congress from Hunan Province, questioned the design of the second version of the ID card, which was introduced in 2004, in as early as 2011, saying that the cards cannot prevent illegal use as the technology used on the cards cannot prove the holders are the actual owners.
The Ministry of Public Security Tuesday said in a statement on its website that it will take strict actions to fight ID card trafficking.
It also said that fingerprint registration for people who change their ID cards or plan to get new ones should be expedited in order to prevent counterfeiting and protect personal information.
Those who have applied for or exchanged their ID cards have been asked to record their fingerprints since early 2013. As many as 16,000 police stations have started the procedure, and fingerprint recording is expected to be implemented nationwide by the end of the year, said the ministry.
The ministry also said that it is considering creating a system for reporting lost ID cards in order to encourage people to report lost cards in a timely fashion, according to Xinhua.