Embattled Chinese rental property provider Ziroom is facing yet another public controversy. A former employee of the Beijing-based site went on trial at the Tongzhou District Court on Feb. 20. She’s accused of illegally obtaining personal data of users. The trial is ongoing
More than 800,000 entries of personal information were discovered on a laptop, iPhone, and USB drive seized by authorities. Some 70,000 of those were traced to Ziroom customers, Beijing News reported (in Chinese).
The accused was identified only by her last name, Li. She joined the company in April 2017. The data theft was discovered in the first half of 2018 after Li had left the Tencent-backed enterprise.
According to the Beijing News report, Ziroom employees were given access to personal information and addresses of landlords who had listed properties on the website, so that they can maintain good relations with them. Employees were however barred from downloading the information from company servers. Li admitted that she used external software to download the data without the company’s approval.
Ziroom attracted $621 million U.S. in series A financing in January 2018. Led by Warburg Pincus, other investors included Sequoia Capital, Tencent, and Sunac. With a $3 billion U.S. valuation, it’s China’s first rental housing tech “unicorn.”
The company was spun off from Lianjia (AKA, HomeLink) in 2016. Lianjia is one of China’s largest rental platforms, claiming to own more than 50 percent of the real estate rental market in Beijing and Chengdu. It now operates in 25 cities in China.
Last December, a class-action lawsuit against the company was brought by tenants who alleged that their apartments had elevated levels of formaldehyde. In September 2018, a couple in Beijing discovered a camera hidden in a power socket of their Ziroom rental home.
Additional reporting: TechNode