China moves to protect personal data form misuse by tech companies

Contributed by Joe Montero

There is considerable interest in efforts by the Chinese government to impose greater control over major private enterprises operating in the country. Critics see this as an attack of freedom to do business. Supporters see it as a justified crackdown on corporate greed.

A prime example of those receiving attention are the tech companies. E-commerce giant  Alibaba has received a lot of media attention. It was fined $2.8 billion for anti-competitive practices. Another, Didi,  the biggest Uber like ride-hailing company in China, had its app removed from app stores and forced to stop signing new users. The reason? Didi was found to be illegally collecting data on individuals.

Unauthorised collection and misuse of data is a familiar problems across the planet. It takes place in Australia. The difference is that most governments not only refuse to do anything about it, and they also often hand over their own data to misbehaving companies.

Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty: Alibaba founder Jack Ma is New York toting for business in the United States during 2014

The bar has been lifted in China through the passing of new laws. The Cybersecurity Law (CSL) of 2016, and in 2020 Data Security Law (DSL) and the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL).  Together, they provide significantly greater security against the misuse of personal data.

But it is the PIPL that is the most far reaching. It was passed through the legislature this year and will be enacted in September. The PIPL is designed to protect citizens’ online data collected by tech companies. It sets strict guidelines for secure data storage and use. A minimum standard is set, and most importantly, the collection of personal data requires the consent of the individual. Compulsion to disclose personal information is made illegal.

Handlers involved in the collection and storage of information will be charged with protection of this data and be liable for any breaches in compliance.  

The new law extends to the operations of the affected corporations outside China.

The shift was prompted by rising consumer complaints over the use of data, and it fits in with the policy  to impose controls on the corporate sector, curtail their political influence, and ensure business is carried out in the interests of society. This involves social responsibility, responding appropriately to the needs of the environment, and not compromising national security by working with foreign governments and other entities.

The PIPL make China a world leader in dealing with the misuse of personal data. Only the European Union has taken comparable steps.

Changes are being made in the context of efforts to ensure the separation of big business and the running of government. The message is that big business will not be tolerated as a centre of political power.

Many Australians would like to see something like this here. Maybe that’s why that’s why we don’t hear about what’s going on in China and have the truth substituted by a barrage of disinformation?

It is not secret that it is the economic power and decisive political influence of major corporations that lies behind many of the problems we face. It has corrupted out political institutions and caused the rise of a big end of town elite, exercising political power for its own interest.

If only we had a government prepared to do something about this.  

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