Asia

China seeks to rein in mobile apps' collection of personal data

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s cyber watchdog said on Monday (March 22) mobile app providers cannot deny users basic access to their services even if they decline to share non-essential personal information, in the government’s latest attempt to curb the sprawling technology sector.

In a statement on its verified WeChat account, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), did not name any app providers in particular but said the requirement was aimed at regulating their access to personal data and protecting the information of individuals.

China has increased scrutiny of its technology sector in recent months, including drafting anti-monopoly rules for tech firms following a dramatic suspension last year of Alibaba-backed Ant Group’s planned US$37 billion (SS$49.6 billion) initial public offering.

Many app providers in China, especially on Android systems, require that users share non-essential information with them, such as picture albums or cameras, in order to access their services. Users who decline to share the information can be denied access.

The CAC statement gave a list of examples on what is deemed essential information. It said, for example, that it is essential for ride-hailing apps to have access to a user’s phone number, location and payment information.

In another example, it said online payment apps need the registered user’s phone number or other ID information, as well as the bank card numbers of both payer and payee.

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