Draft legislation sets out the emerging concept of personal data protection A draft version of the mainland's personal privacy protection law has been finished and submitted to state authorities for review, state media reports say. Under the Personal Data Protection Law, which will be finalised this year, a national office will be set up to protect against personal privacy infringements, according to Zhou Hanhua , a law expert from the Academy of Social Sciences who has participated in the drafting process. Companies, schools or other organisations will have to seek approval from the proposed Personal Data Protection Office before collecting or analysing any private information, such as phone numbers, mailing addresses or copies of identification documents, according to Mr Zhou. Any individual or institution that oversteps the line would face criminal charges that could result in a jail sentence, he said. The personal data law is part of the mainland's privacy protection project, conducted by the State Council Informatisation Office. The main drive for the legislation is to promote e-commerce, in addition to protecting privacy. With the rapid development of communications technology, the mainland has witnessed a host of privacy infringement cases in recent years. There are increasing reports of young mothers being harassed by the sellers of baby products soon after having a child, and of people who just bought an apartment being annoyed by furniture companies. The increasing use of illicit photography is another problem cited by Mr Zhou. 'Camera phones are shooting sneaky photos, and underground detective firms are collecting personal data via hi-tech gadgets,' he was quoted as saying. The personal data protection law indicated a new movement in Chinese legal circles to establish a right to privacy and personal space, Mr Zhou said. It also involved the issue of defining privacy in a country used to scrutinising its citizens' lives. Some schools have installed secret classroom cameras to monitor students' behaviour, which, under the new law, could constitute a crime against personal privacy rights. Schools have argued that the cameras were installed to maintain discipline and so teachers did not have to be present at all times. Mr Zhou said the right to privacy was still an emerging legal concept, and asserting such a right for public or semi-public spaces pushed that concept further. Some analysts say the ultimate test for the privacy protection law on the mainland would involve government monitoring of public places. There is no general privacy protection law on the mainland, and very few laws limiting government interference with the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.