China passed a law Friday designed to protect citizens’ data privacy and restrict collection of personal information.
The Personal Information Protection Law, approved by China’s National People’s Congress, forces companies collecting personal data to obtain consent from users, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. The law also allows users to opt out of marketing strategies that use their personal information and shuts down apps that illegally process data.
Though the final version has not yet been published, a previous draft of the law forbade companies from refusing services to users who opt out of data collection, and allowed individuals to request their personal data from companies, according to CNBC.
However, the law does not institute “legal limits on government surveillance,” Karman Lucero, a fellow at the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center, told The Wall Street Journal.
“Chinese civil society still has very limited means of ‘watching the watchmen,’” Lucero said.
With a new GDPR-style data-privacy law coming, " for China’s technology firms, the era of free data collection and usage in China—as in, free of responsibilities and at no cost—is over,” says Winston Ma of NYU's law school.@wsjeva https://t.co/9kzz3vt73N
— Jonathan Cheng (@JChengWSJ) August 18, 2021
China’s practice of surveilling its citizens is well known. The government operates a network of hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras, as well as data collection software, to monitor citizen behavior.
Data from these programs inform China’s social credit system, in which citizens can be denied access to certain public services depending on their rating. The government also allegedly maintains a social media spying program monitoring political speech.
China restructured Ant Group, a digital payment company belonging to billionaire Jack Ma, over how it handled customer information. The country also issued an antitrust fine to Ma’s e-commerce company Alibaba over its data privacy policies.
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