China internet watchdog cites 105 apps for improper data collection
China’s internet watchdog on Friday cited 105 apps operating in its country, including Microsoft Bing and LinkedIn, over allegations of illegal data collection of users’ personal information.
The Associated Press reported that the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced in a statement on its website that the apps, which also include Bytedance’s Douyin and short video app Kuaishou, had 15 business days to address the reported violations before they would face legal consequences.
The move comes as part of the watchdog’s ongoing crackdown on apps and online content for allegations of improper data collection and misinformation, even as China itself faces allegations from U.S. lawmakers of breaches of online privacy.
Critics have specifically brought attention to China’s alleged use of facial recognition to profile and track Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, where the Biden administration and top elected officials have accused Beijing of carrying out human rights abuses, including forced labor, mass detention and sterilization.
The Chinese government has denied the allegations, with a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson last month calling the reports “lies and false information concocted by anti-China forces.”
The Chinese government earlier this month unveiled guidelines for apps on the proper use of personal information on their platforms, under which they can be held accountable for excessive data collection without a user’s consent, the AP noted.
The Friday citations followed orders for apps developed by Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding to stop gathering user information without consent.
Last month, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) issued a nearly $2.8 billion fine against Alibaba after accusing the e-commerce giant of “exclusive dealing agreements” that have limited the sale of products on rival online platforms.
In October, the CAC launched a “rectification” of Chinese mobile internet browsers, arguing that they “have become a gathering place” of “chaos.”
The CAC said at the time that any mobile browsers that had “outstanding problems” after the “rectification” would “be dealt with strictly according to laws and regulations until related businesses are banned.”
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