Hong Kong (CNN)A Chinese city says it has destroyed a billion pieces of personal data collected during the pandemic, as local governments gradually dismantle their coronavirus surveillance and tracking systems after abandoning the country's controversial zero-Covid policy.
Wuxi, a manufacturing hub on China's eastern coast and home to 7.5 million people, held a ceremony Thursday to dispose of Covid-related personal data, the city's public security bureau said in a statement on social media.
The one billion pieces of data were collected for purposes including Covid tests, contact tracing and the prevention of imported cases -- and they were only the first batch of such data to be disposed, the statement said.
China collects vast amounts of data on its citizens -- from gathering their DNA and other biological samples to tracking their movements on a sprawling network of surveillance cameras and monitoring their digital footprints.
But since the pandemic, state surveillance has pushed deeper into the private lives of Chinese citizens, resulting in unprecedented levels of data collection. Following the dismantling of zero-Covid restrictions, residents have grown concerned over the security of the huge amount of personal data stored by local governments, fearing potential data leaks or theft.
Last July, it was revealed that a massive online database apparently containing the personal information of up to one billion Chinese citizens was left unsecured and publicly accessible for more than a year -- until an anonymous user in a hack forum offered to sell the data and brought it to wider attention.
In the statement, Wuxi officials said "third-party audit and notary officers" would be invited to take part in the deletion process, to ensure it cannot be restored. CNN cannot independently verify the destruction of the data.