Beijing calls out Amazon, ByteDance, NetEase for violating users’ rights in latest crackdown


The 145 named apps have until July 26 to take corrective measures or face punishment, the Ministry of Information Technology (MIIT) said on Monday. The MIIT has named and shamed over 1,300 apps since 2019 for illegally collecting user information, requesting excessive permissions or misleading customers. — SCMP

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has called out apps made by Amazon, NetEase and Tiktok-owner ByteDance, as well as 142 others apps, for violating users’ rights.

Amazon’s China app and NetEase’s Dashen, an online community for gamers, have illegally collected user information, the ministry said in its latest list of problematic apps released on Monday.

In addition, Douyin Lite, a version of TikTok’s Chinese app made for lower-end phones, did not clearly display app information on the app store while Huya, a major livestreaming platform backed by Tencent Holdings, was found to have deceived, misled or forced users to turn on certain permissions, according to the ministry.

Amazon said in an emailed statement that it will “continue to coordinate closely with the ministry to ensure we are meeting its requirements”. Other app operators did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

As part of the regular naming and shaming of Chinese apps by the central government, the MIIT has exerted its authority since 2019 with a total of 15 lists of problematic apps, including six so far this year.

The ministry has singled out more than 1,300 apps to date for illegally collecting user information, requesting excessive permissions or misleading customers.

In the latest announcement, apps that violated the Cybersecurity Law and several other telecoms regulations include Xunlei, a popular download manager, iFeng.com’s Phoenix News and cryptocurrency community Bishijie, which shut down its app and website in mainland China last week.

The 145 apps must take corrective measures before July 26 or face punishment, the ministry said.

In the past, however, most apps named by the ministry were allowed to continue operation with only a small percentage shut down for good. Out of the 41 apps first called out as problematic, for instance, three were shut down and only one of them is still unavailable.

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus use their smartphones as they walk through Ditan Park in Beijing. Photo: AP

The MIIT, as well as the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), is a powerful agency with a broad remit that covers the technology and internet sectors.

The CAC is currently leading a cybersecurity review into ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and has issued an order preventing its apps from taking on new users. Three more online services have been put under review over data security risks and national security by the internet watchdog.

Regulators have also been working on strengthening consumer data protection including punishing apps that collect too much data after rampant data leaks in the country exposed the information of millions of online users.

In May, new regulations from the MIIT came into effect that hold application providers accountable for collecting what it calls “excessive” user data unrelated to their core services and forcing users to give uninformed consent to how their data is used.

The regulations on necessary personal information for mobile internet applications covers the basic functions and services for 39 app categories, including messaging, online shopping, payments, ride-hailing, short video, live streaming and mobile games.

Beijing has been working to stamp out personal privacy breaches in the world’s largest internet market, with about one billion users. The government last year drafted the Personal Information Protection Law, which sets fines of up to 50mil yuan (RM32.76mil), or 5% of a company’s annual revenue, for such offences. – South China Morning Post

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