China Crackdown On ‘Too Much Data Collection’ Through Smartphone Applications Amidst Increasingly Invasive Protocols And Practices

China has published a new set of stringent regulations that are aimed at curbing the increasingly invasive data collection practices. The set of rules and protocols about to go into effect, warn companies about the illegal data collection and use of the personal information of app users. With the new policies, China appears to be determined to clean up unauthorized data collection by internet players. However, many local and international companies may question the data collection practices of the Chinese Government.

A document jointly published by China’s Cyberspace Administration, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Public Security, and State Administration for Market Regulation, provides a standard for identifying illegal collection and use of personal data by app developers. It essentially outlines new rules designed to prevent illegal, unauthorized or non-consensual data collection.

China Attempts To Reign In Rampant Data Collection Of Online Citizens Amidst Increasing Data Breaches:

The document jointly published by the majority of parties clearly outlines a standard for identifying illegal collection and use of personal data by app developers, noted Liu Yuanxing, senior counsel at Beijing-based law firm, King & Partners.

“The new rules generally cover all the blind spots for personal informational protection in relation to apps and draw a line for service providers. It will help with the regulation of apps in China and help operators and distributors to self-regulate.”

According to the document, prohibited behaviors of app developers and internet companies include the absence of published service regulations, failure to clarify the purpose and methods of data collection, collection and sharing of personal information without users’ consent, and collection of user information not related to the service provided.

The majority of app developers and third-party service providers have been routinely warned by the Chinese government. The government even took down several apps related to finance, weather forecasting and retail owing to increasing concerns about illegal data collection by internet companies.

According to reports, more than 80 percent of China’s internet users experienced data breaches in 2018 while more than one-third of apps in China are prone to data safety risk. The China Consumers Association (CCA) too had warned about a large number of smartphone apps in China which were collecting a massive and needless amount of personal data, including user location, contact lists, and mobile numbers. A study published in 2018 indicated that 91 out of 100 mobile apps that it reviewed, were suspected of collecting too much data.

Chinese Crackdown On Unauthorized Data Collection In Line With Other Countries?

Unauthorized, excessive or needless data collection from users has been an increasing issue for the majority of internet and smartphone app users. Taking note of the same, several countries have begun to take a long and hard look at the way internet companies, app developers and third-party service providers operate and collect data.

Just last year, one of the most comprehensive policies was enacted by the European Union. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law effectively grants users the right to request access to their personal data stored by online services. Additionally, users can restrict how internet companies handle personal information. Using the California Consumer Privacy Act, users can mandate the companies to completely disclose any personal information they have on them, and ask them to delete the same as well.

Incidentally, the new and comprehensive data protection policy of China appears to be an extension of a Cybersecurity Law that the country passed in 2016. The law effectively bans online service providers from collecting and selling users’ personal information without the latter’s consent. Subsequently in 2018, the country put forth the Personal Information Security Specification, a national standard covering the collection, storage, use, sharing, transfer, and disclosure of personal information.

China may have stepped up its efforts to curb the rampant collection, processing, and usage of personal information of its citizens who use smartphone apps and online services. However, privacy advocates point out that the Chinese government itself is one of the largest collectors of personal data. With thousands of security cameras collecting and identifying citizens, and millions more on their way, China recently deployed the highly-controversial ‘Social Credit System’, which rewards good behavior and punishes “immoral, unethical and unhealthy” activities through constant round-the-clock monitoring.

Alap Naik Desai
A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.