App users’ privacy gets heightened protection
Developers urged to restrict collection of personal data
Published: Oct 24, 2019 08:28 PM

File photo: IC

China released an updated app regulation on Thursday that calls on developers to avoid forcing users to reveal their personal data, part of an effort to protect mobile users' privacy as app use soars.

Apps should not force users to accept such requests as a consider of using the service, according to an updated version of the Personal Information Security Specification released on the official WeChat account of China's Personal Information Protection Task Force on Apps.

Apps should also give users a simple and easy method of cancelling accounts. Personal information needed during the account cancelling process should not exceed the personal information collected during the registration process.

Public comment is being sought on the specification, according to the official account.

Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based industry insider, told the Global Times on Thursday that the new specification offers a clear guideline for app developers and the emerging and fast-developing industry, urging them not to "ask for information that they don't need at all and peep into users' lives and acquire users' private information."

Tests conducted by the Shanghai Consumer Council involved 39 apps covering online shopping, travel and daily living/services. The tests found that more than 60 percent of the apps accessed sensitive user data that wasn't needed, including calendars and phone records. 

An industry insider told the Global Times on Thursday that developers may use users' personal data to prompt "customized advertisements," which could generate profits for companies involved.

Analysts said the move is also in line with China's effort to strengthen data protection for individuals and crack down on the illegal gathering of personal information. The risks of personal information leakage are increasing with China's soaring internet and app users.

China hosts the world's largest online population, with the number of internet users in China had hit 854 million as of June 2019. The country's internet penetration rate has reached 61.2 percent. 

Of the online population, 847 million used mobile phones to surf the internet, accounting for 99.1 percent of the total, according to a report issued by the China Internet Network Information Center.

The new regulation has been welcomed by the end users. "I've been waiting for this for a long time, and all I hope now is that the regulation could be carried out as soon as possible," a Beijing-based white-collar worker surnamed Yu told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Almost all apps or official accounts (in WeChat) would require access to my personal information such as location and contacts before providing services, and some of them, such as a selfie app, I really don't understand why it has to get access to my location and contacts," Yu said.

Yu said she has downloaded more than 100 apps on her phones, and subscribed to more than 50 official accounts on WeChat, covering a wide range of categories including social networking, picture enhancing, navigation, news, online banking and shopping. 

China has long been the most active mobile app market in the world. On average, a user installs more than 100 apps on their mobile phone, and more than 40 apps are used every month, Southern Metropolis Daily reported, citing a report released by mobile market data analysis agency AppAnnie.