Jiayuan, China’s largest internet dating website, has recently come under public scrutiny for seriously violating the privacy of its members.
Multiple reports by The Paper, a state-run digital newspaper based in Shanghai, that started on Dec. 7, revealed that Jiayuan can “target precisely” its 220 million registered members. Jiayuan allows its sales staff to view members’ personal information through its back office and then conducts mass telemarketing calls and messages based on members’ preferences to lure them into buying expensive product packages from the company, The Paper said on Dec. 13.
An Epoch Times reporter contacted a Jiayuan branch in southern China’s Jiangsu Province. Staff member Mr. Wang (a pseudonym) admitted that the company did use the backend-related function because some sales people needed to know about members’ personal information to help in matchmaking; but the feature was turned off after the media exposure.
Although these dating platforms have signed the Information Protection Act, Mr. Wang said that in fact most of them open up back-office functions to obtain real information about members.
“Because it [dating site] is a person-based service and many things cannot be taken into account, it’s necessary [for us] to use some of these things [internal members’ personal information].”
In May 2011, Jiayuan (stock symbol DATE) became the world’s first dating website listed on NASDAQ. In 2017, Jiayuan was delisted from the U.S. stock market.
Jiayuan then merged with Baihe, another online dating site, and formed Baihe Jiayuan Network Group Co., Ltd. in the same year, which was listed on China’s National Equities Exchange and Quotations (also known as New Third Board) with more than 300 million cumulative members and nearly 200 offline service stores nationwide.
According to The Paper (www.thepaper.cn), a news reporter was recruited in early November to work in Jiayuan’s VIP service store and became an e-marketing marriage sales matchmaker.
After two weeks of undercover investigation, the reporter found that each sales matchmaker in the store can get 20 to 50 member resources per day and can look over all of their personal registration information, including income, car, and real estate status ownership. The company’s personal page can automatically “unlock” the private chat history of members and view their online click preferences and activity details.
In addition, if a sales matchmaker sees the private chat involves fraud and cheating, they pretend not to see it to avoid being reported for invasion of personal privacy.
“Jiayuan has actually been using illegal and fraudulent behavior,” Wang Yajun, a lawyer at Beijing Shuang Bei Law Firm, told The Epoch Times. He said the authorities’ indifference to the long-standing mess of online dating companies is a sign of inaction, adding that the only way to stop it is for the authorities to effectively enforce the law whenever that kind of illegal conduct is detected.
Jiayuan’s Fatal Marriage Fraud Case
Jiayuan has been linked to a number of fraudulent cases, including a “fatal marriage fraud case” that rocked China four years ago.
On Sep. 7, 2017, Su Xiangmao, the founder of WePhone, a social app similar to Skype, committed suicide at his home in Haidian district, Beijing. He left an online post the day before saying his ex-wife Zhai Xinxin blackmailed him for about $1.57 million when their one-month marriage ended and caused a break in the capital chain of the company.
Su met Zhai Xinxin through the Jiyuan dating site VIP service. Su said that Zhai not only falsified her age and occupation but even deliberately covered up her past marriage history, which depressed Su at the time.
Li Xiaopeng, a commentator, said in his article published in Qianjiang Evening News, a Zhejiang province-based media, on Sept. 12, 2017, that the Jiayuan site should be held responsible for introducing Su and Zhai.
The Jiayuan site claims to be a “serious dating website,” so the authenticity of members’ information should be most important of all. But Zhai’s registration is not real and is incomplete, Li added.
Affected by Su’s death, on Sep. 8, 2017, the stock price of Baihe Jiayuan Network Group Co., Ltd. plummeted by nearly 50 percent within a week, said South China Morning Post on Sep. 14, 2017.
According to National Business Daily, a Chinese financial media, on June 9, 2019, two years later (June 2019) Zhai reappeared on the Jiayuan site as 30 years old, unmarried, and from California. Although Jiayuan’s official Weibo, China’s Twitter, later stated that Zhai’s account had been added to the site’s blacklist, the Chinese dating sites cannot be trusted to verify user information.
Kane Zhang contributed to this article