China jacks up online privacy

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/24 23:28:39

Service agreements force users to share personal data


The announcement by Chinese authorities that 10 popular online platforms must strengthen user privacy was met with skepticism on Sunday.

Users can alter and delete their personal information and also have their accounts canceled on the 10 popular platforms after an announcement by the Cyberspace Administration of China, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Public Security and Standardization Administration, China News Service reported.

Eight online products including WeChat, Baidu map, JD and Taobao grant users more choice about the privacy of their account information, the authorities said after inspecting the platforms. Sina Weibo and Ctrip were excluded from the authorities' list.

Platforms including WeChat, Taobao, Alipay and Didi Chuxing promised that they will obtain users' permission before collecting or using their personal information, according to the report.

Internet users did not apparently welcome the notice, many noting that the compulsory service agreements for these online platforms render notions of privacy largely irrelevant.

After WeChat released its newly revised statement on protecting personal information on Thursday, many users condemned its service agreements for "unfair clauses."

Online platforms have already formed the habit of collecting, using and sharing their users' personal data, Wang Sixin, a media law professor at Communication University of China, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Most platforms do not distinguish between different levels of privacy, he said.

Users themselves also cannot decide what kinds of information they want to reveal to online platforms. All types of privacy are usually combined into one, Wang noted.

The WeChat user agreement clearly states that the platform will collect personal information including contact lists and addresses, and said it won't share this information with outside parties without users' approval.

"It's rather difficult to track whether users' personal information is shared with third parties," Wang said.

"Their information normally won't only be shared with one platform, but two or three other platforms."

Under the Chinese Constitution, personal messages on WeChat are protected and Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of communication.

A man from Anhui Province was detained for five days after posting insults against traffic police in a 240-member chat group. "Are they stupid enough to check drunk driving in the rain? These idiots are just that poor," he opined.

Such information leakage on chat groups might not be the result of official monitoring, Wang noted.

"It might have been leaked by other group members," he said.



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