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May 21, 2021updated 14 Nov 2021 3:20pm

Microsoft joins a hundred other apps – and counting – on the Beijing naughty step

By Elles Houweling

China’s internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), has added short-video platforms TikTok and Kuaishou and Microsoft-owned Bing and LinkedIn to its list of apps carrying out illegal collection and use of personal data.

According to a statement published on Friday, the CAC found that 105 apps had violated several laws and had infringed personal information through illegal access, over-collection and excessive authorisation of personal data. The organisation said that it had received numerous complaints from users on its official WeChat account. WeChat is not on the list.

The 105 apps that were named include 19 short-video platform apps, 34 browser apps, 51 job search apps, and 1 utility app. The list has grown rapidly since the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) implemented new regulations on May 1.

The new laws prohibit mobile app developers from refusing to offer basic services to consumers who do not want to provide personal data unnecessary for the provision of such services.

The CAC said the legislation would provide greater clarity on the types of data deemed necessary for commonly used apps, including ride-hailing, instant messaging, online retail, and map navigation.

It added that the new regulations were needed as mobile apps grow increasingly popular and the collection of a wide range of personal data has become prevalent. It noted that several apps sought personal information by bundling their services and prevented consumers from using basic functions if they refused to authorise the use of their data.

According to the CAC’s most recent statement, companies are given 15 days to change their ways. If the changes are not implemented within the given timeframe, “our office will deal with it in accordance with the law,” the organisation warned.

Beijing has been working to stamp out personal privacy breaches in the world’s largest internet market, with nearly 1bn users. The government last year drafted the Personal Information Protection Law, which sets fines of up to 50 million yuan (around $7.7m), or 5 per cent of a company’s annual revenue, for such offences.

The scrutiny on data privacy is part of a wider crackdown on China’s biggest tech companies. Last month, some of the country’s most prominent names in tech, such as Tencent, Baidu and ByteDance, were slapped with antitrust fines. Notably, the ecommerce giant Alibaba was hit with a $2.8bn fine for breaching antitrust regulations.