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Chinese regulators order mobile apps to rectify ‘mishandling’ of user data

Written by Jiaxing Li Published on     2 mins read

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Investors expect even tighter rules and a series of punishments for tech companies.

The Chinese companies behind 43 apps received warning notices last Thursday from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, or MIIT, which ordered them to “rectify” what the organ deems as the irregular collection of user data. This latest round of admonitions coincides with tightened rules for tech companies that manage vast troves of user data, including users’ contact lists and location information.

Tencent’s WeChat and Tencent Video were among the 43 apps named in the MIIT’s warnings. Other popular apps on the list include video streaming service iQiyi, as well as travel booking platforms Trip.com and Qunar. E-commerce platforms, map and navigation apps, and fitness apps were also named.

The backend operations for each app must be “rectified” before Wednesday, August 25, the MIIT said.

This is the eighth cluster of apps censured by the regulator this year. In all, 351 apps have received notices from the MIIT this year, and 25 apps were removed from app stores for severely violating user privacy and illegally using personal data, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The state media report didn’t name the 25 apps that were removed, but the number matches the collection of Didi apps that were removed from app stores in July, shortly after the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange. At the time, the Cyberspace Administration of China launched a probe into Didi’s handling of user data to protect “national security and the public interest.”

Research data cited by CCTV shows there are 989 million internet users in China, and more than 3 million apps available for download. The broadcaster said that “urgent legislation on data protection is needed.”

As concerns mount in Beijing regarding private tech enterprises controlling huge caches of customer data, regulators issued a new draft law on personal data security last week. The draft is expected to come into effect in November and will regulate the way companies price their services and utilize recommendation algorithms.

Investors remain wary after the draft was made public last Friday, Bloomberg reported. Many expect China’s tech companies to face even stricter enforcement and more punitive measures.

Read this: Tech companies in China navigate new rules for “critical information infrastructure”

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