(Photo: IC )
Chinese police have cracked the country's first case where a hacker was arrested for selling a self-developed tracking app to shady debt-collecting companies.
Police in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province arrested a 30-year-old man surnamed Wu, who made an app called "App Detective" that can break into an individual's instant message database and steal the location information of the user. Wu sold the app mainly to debt-collectors who then used it to track a debtor's whereabouts, according to a report by China National Radio (CNR).
Wu has been transferred for prosecution for allegedly providing programs that can hack computer systems. Two other people, who frequently used Wu's app to obtain others' locations, were waiting for prosecution on charges of infringing on citizens' personal information.
Unsatisfied with the accuracy of other illegal tracking apps, Wu, a computer engineering graduate, even managed to improve his app to a margin of error of 20-50 meters, said the CNR report.
After a debtor reported to Nanjing police that his location was being disclosed to a debt-collecting company, local officers launched an investigation and finally arrested Wu in March of 2018 in Haidong, Northwest China's Qinghai Province.
Police said "App Detective" had some 4,000 registered users who paid as little as 1 yuan ($0.15) to get a person's static location and 10 yuan to track the person's movements.
The app generated total revenue of more than 400,000 yuan, according to the police.
Similar apps are "rampant on the internet and are a threat to everyone's privacy and safety," Qin An, head of the Beijing-based Institute of China Cyberspace Strategy, told the Global Times on Monday.
Methods of infringing on people's privacy are advancing, which requires a system to detect their use rather than waiting for a victim to call the police, Qin said.
Qin also pointed out that chat apps should be responsible for protecting the information that users authorize them to collect.