Many netizens take issue with Baidu CEO’s comments on data privacy

By Zhang Hongpei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/26 19:23:39

Chinese people are not overly concerned about data security and will trade privacy for convenience, safety or efficiency in many cases, said Baidu CEO and chairman Robin Li Yanhong on Monday, according to a video posted on the Weibo account of domestic news outlet

His comments aroused heated discussion, with many netizens saying it was a "shame" to say such things.

"It seems users' interests don't come first... the company's do," one netizen said under the Weibo post.

According to the clip, Li made the comment at the China Development Forum held in Beijing. He was asked by Dominic Barton, global managing partner of consulting company McKinsey & Co, for his opinion on using personal data when required for healthcare reform or innovation.

Joining different sets of data can generate more power, said Li, "but in the meanwhile, we're very aware of the privacy issue. How do we safeguard the data? Over the past few years, China has become increasingly aware of this problem and enforcing relevant laws more strongly."

"The Chinese people are more open or less sensitive about the privacy issue. If they are able to trade privacy for convenience, safety and efficiency, in a lot of cases, they are willing to do that," he said.

"Who gave you the right to speak for [common] Chinese [internet users]?" a netizen said.

"I think Li's words are quite honest, expressing what most companies are reluctant to say in a public forum," said Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based industry analyst.

Businesses must first get users' consent before using personal data. Using that data can help companies produce more quality services to enhance users' experience, Liu told the Global Times Monday.

Jia Rui, an investment manager focused on the big data industry, said that Li's comments referred to a trend of more and more users offering their data by ticking the "agree" button before using an app or program.

"That doesn't mean users do not care about privacy or that the company can use the data however it wants. On the contrary, data protection is the most important thing for companies and the industry regulator," Jia told the Global Times Monday.

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