An unsecured database of Chinese women containing their personal information was discovered by white hat hacker, Victor Gevers.
The Dutch researcher revealed his discovery on Twitter. He said he was looking for open databases when he stumbled upon this one in particular.
The database contained the personal information of about 1.8 million Chinese women. Names, addresses, ages, phone numbers, marital status and educational backgrounds were among the available information. There is also an additional column indicating a what appears to be a vague “BreedReady” status.
When asked by a netizen how Gevers found the database, he said that it was freely available and the information was accessible to anyone. Gevers, in another tweet, stated that “China has 29,808 open databases and is ranking in second place in the top 5 list of countries when it comes to unsafe MongoDB usage in the world.”
MongoDB, a database programme, has been at the centre of various data breaches due to its default unsecured configuration. Organizations unaware of this detail can unknowingly expose their databases to the public.
Netizens were to quick to speculate what “BreedReady” could possibly mean. Some wondered if it was an indicator for women’s fertility or availability for child-bearing. Others said that “BreedReady” could be a mistranslation, a less insidious Chinese term for marital status.
Gevers added that the average age of women was 32 years old while the youngest woman in the database was 15. Eighty-nine percent of the women were listed as “single,” ten percent were “divorced,” and one percent were “widowed.” Most of the women resided in Beijing.
In China, they have a shortage of women. So an organization started to build a database to start registering over 1,8 million women with all kinds of details like phone numbers, addresses, education, location, ID number, marital status, and a ”BreedReady” status? ???? pic.twitter.com/fbRKsbNHPJ
— Victor Gevers (@0xDUDE) March 9, 2019
There were also links to what appeared to be the women’s Facebook profiles which some may find odd considering Facebook is banned in China.
It is still unknown who managed and organized the database. Is it data from a dating app? Are these merely medical records? Is the government behind this effort to address China’s declining birth rate?
China is no stranger to these methods and technologies considering its massive government surveillance programme that is the backbone of its widely criticised social credit system.
China’s one-child policy which was implemented in 1979 to curb its rapidly booming population is now producing ill effects. Experts predict that China “will face an unstoppable population decline over the coming decades” and be unable to support a rapidly aging population.
One in four people will be considered senior citizens in China by the year 2050. Women of childbearing age (23 to 30 years old) will decrease by 40 percent ten years from now.
The policy and the cultural preference for baby boys also contributed to the open secret practice of aborting female babies and female infanticide.
Because of the new population problem, the Chinese government has increased its efforts to encourage women to get married and have children much more quickly. The term “leftover woman” was coined to shame women who choose their career over an early marriage. Even though men outnumber women, the government still puts the burden on women to find a husband.
Gevers has reached out to some of the women in the database, asking if they are aware of its existence and its exposure to the world.