Chinese 33 Apps Break Rules in Gathering Users Personal Data

The Cyberspace Administration of China called out  33 mobile apps for gathering more than mandatory personal data.

Chinese apps have always been known to grant access to information more than required otherwise they won’t work. At least six out of ten most popular Chinese apps, including Helo and Shareit as well as browsers such as UC Browser, demand users give access to cameras and microphones on their smartphones even when such access is not required.

On the numerous complaints of users, The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has finally looked into this matter. On Saturday in a brief statement, they stated that these apps are continuously breaking laws. And the most important one is the gathering of personal data which is not at all related to the service of their app. After the investigation being carried out and authorities accessed the apps the app owners and operators have been found guilty of breaching the rules.

33 apps are gathering sensitive personal information, including SMS messages, address books, location, camera, and recordings. Taobao’s spin-off Tmall, popular travel app Ctrip (which owns Skyscanner), and short-video app Kuaishou are among them. There are also apps from Sogou, Baidu, Tencent, QQ, and Zhejiang Jianxin Technology. According to CAC, all these 33 apps are even gathering personal information without consent from their users.

This is not the first time popular Chinese apps are being called out for huge data collection. The China Consumers Association (CCA) tested 100 apps in 10 different categories in November 2018. Results showed that 59 of them having excessive information about a user’s location. Many of them were also collecting sensitive data related to their contacts, identities, and/or phone numbers. Forty-seven apps had inadequate privacy securities while 34 apps did not have a privacy policy at all.

At that time too, a huge drama carried out especially after one of the selfie apps Meitu was accused of snatching faces. Not only that, the app was excessively collecting recognizable bio-data and financial information from its users. Another app Baidu was sued by a consumer protection organization for collecting users’ information without consent, including calls, location data, messages, and contacts in 2017. And the list goes on. Chinese apps have always been under fire for these illegitimate activities, totally irrelevant to their services.

The government had made some regulations which were released in March. The regulatory measures included the prohibition of mobile app developers from not providing services to users on the basis of input of unnecessary personal data. According to CAC, A list of the allowed data to be gathered and stored would be cleared in the legislation. That would mainly be ride-hailing, instant messaging, online retail, and map navigation. For instance, ride-hailing apps would need access to their users’ phone numbers, payment details, and location.

Mobile apps are now increasing and also becoming popular day by day. Many apps don’t let users use even the basic service of their app, until or unless the users provide personal information. And for these cheap activities of the mobile app operators, new sets of rules and regulations are necessary. The rules would restrict the app’s operators regarding the access of data and thus would save the users’ personal information.

The government of China has boosted its efforts on track in recent years because it is influencing the public at another level. Before it gets out of control, this is the time to finally restrict and maintain the decency in apps regarding security.

Last month, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group fined18.2 billion yuan ($2.77 billion) for breaking China’s antitrust regulations and abusing its market dominance. The country’s State Administration for Market Regulation said Alibaba had been destroying its strong market position since 2015. It is to stop merchants from using other online e-commerce platforms. These activities impacted the free movement of goods and services, violating a merchant’s business interests.

Chinese apps are always fond of gathering the excessive data of users but cannot or would not have the ability to protect it at all. In 2018, 130 million customers of Huazhu Hotels Group’s data were being sold online for 1 bitcoin. 30 million users’ data got leaked of dating app Momo – the last kind of app you would want to leak your data. And in 2019, From several Chinese online ticket reservation platforms, 5 million people’s personal data got stolen by hackers. And that was not the first and the last time this happened. Apps cannot protect the data so they should stop demanding excessive unnecessary information.

The 33 apps that are now called out by CAC and their operators now have 10 working days to rectify the issue, failing which, they would be subject to penalties laid out by the regulations, CAC said.

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