China to Impose New Information Protection Laws, Tightening Regulation of Data-Hungry Internet Giants

(Source: Pixabay)

China is moving closer to enforcing a new law that would crack down on the invasive practices of the country’s most powerful tech giants, as the draft of the Personal Information Protection Law has been submitted to China’s top legislature for review on Monday.

The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress is currently holding a second reading of the proposal, during which lawmakers deliberate the draft bill in group discussions, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. The session will run from Monday to Thursday.

The new rules will apply both to the country’s citizens and to the companies and individuals that process their data. They specifically target large tech companies which provide fundamental internet services, enjoy an enormous user base, operate businesses in complex categories and therefore handle massive amounts of personal data. These companies would be expected to set up an independent body mainly composed of external members to supervise how information is obtained and handled, in addition to publishing regular social responsibility reports on personal data protection.

The draft law also requires internet platforms to cease dealing with personal information through “coercion,” stipulating that they provide convenient methods for users to withdraw their consent which allows data collectors to obtain their information, and set up rules for customized push notifications.

SEE ALSO: Alibaba, Tencent, ByteDance Summoned by Chinese Internet Regulator over Voice Software and “Deep-fake” Technology

The legislation is also regarded as part of Beijing’s broader efforts to tighten its grip on the country’s rapidly growing internet industry, a campaign that picked up steam after the government officials abruptly called a halt to Ant Group’s blockbuster IPO last November. Earlier this month, Chinese regulators also issued a $2.8 billion fine against Alibaba for abusing its dominant power in the online shopping market following an anti-monopoly investigation that began in December. On Monday, China’s market regulator announced that it has launched an antitrust investigation into food delivery giant Meituan, accusing the company of forcing merchants to use its services exclusively.

The first draft version of the Personal Information Protection Law was introduced last October.

Globally, there has been a trend of ever more emphasis placed on data protection and privacy. In 2018, the European Union enacted the the world’s toughest online privacy law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation. It allows citizens to exercise more control over their personal data and gives governments broad authority to fine companies that fail to comply, or to force changes to their data-collection practices. Countries including Brazil, Japan and South Korea have also followed Europe’s lead by passing similar data protection laws.