On August 8, Peter Humphrey, a British citizen, and Yu Yingzeng, a U.S. citizen, were convicted in Shanghai of illegally collecting the personal information of Chinese citizens. Humphrey and Yu ran a business risk consulting firm, ChinaWhys Col., Ltd, which investigated businesses and individuals for corporate clients. According to the Chinese government, Humphrey and Yu would access or sell information about Chinese citizens, such as immigration history, real estate holdings, and addresses.

A year ago, Humphrey and Yu were arrested and charged with violating Article 253 of China’s Criminal Law, which prohibits government personnel and certain business sectors from selling or sharing the personal information of Chinese citizens. Their convictions followed a one-day trial during which they argued that they had purchased a service and not data; the data they sold and/or accessed was publicly available; that they had created reports and not provided specific information; and that the violation was not serious enough to warrant the criminal case.

Humphrey was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and will be deported following his imprisonment, and Yu was sentenced to two years in prison. They collectively were fined more than $50,000. Article 253 has been used several times to prosecute Chinese citizens since it was enacted in 2009, but this marks the first time that foreigners were prosecuted under the law.