Dozens of China Apps Warned Over Breaching Data Transfer Rules

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China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) reported 43 apps on Wednesday for illegally transferring user data, warning companies to fix the issue within a week.

The illegal behavior included transferring users’ location and contacts, and harassing users with pop-up windows, according to an MIIT statement.

The ministry said if the 43 apps, which included Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, Tencent Map, and Tencent Video, were not fixed within the set week then punishment would follow.

The authority also called out Alibaba’s e-reading app, iQiyi’s video streaming app, and travel agency’s platform.

MIIT has issued eight rectification lists this year to its homegrown tech companies, and apps included were accused of illegally collecting users’ personal data.

Last month, the ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing was ordered to take down its apps from the country’s app stores. China’s cybersecurity regulator claimed the company had illegally collected and used personal data. This move came days after the company raised $4.4 billion in its U.S. IPO.

WeChat said on July 27 that it temporarily stopped registering new users as its security technology was upgraded “to align with relevant laws and regulations.” Three days before the announcement, Beijing’s anti-monopoly regulator fined WeChat’s parent company an estimated $77,100 for its anti-competitive behavior in China’s music market.

Recently, the regime’s tightened grip has expanded to overseas-based companies.

On Aug. 5, the U.S.-based language-learning app, Duolingo, was found unavailable to download on Android app stores in China, including those operated by Huawei Technologies, Tencent Holdings, and Xiaomi.

The Chinese authorities kept silent on the app’s disappearance, but Beijing has “strictly banned” education institutions providing overseas courses to Chinese students while announcing a crackdown on for-profit after-school tutoring courses on July 24.

In the first six months of this year, over 370 apps were taken down with MIIT claiming those companies refused to rectify their operations after receiving a warning, state-media said.

On Tuesday, Beijing’s anti-competitive regulator issued a set of draft rules restricting the use of user data and banning unfair competitions.

By Dorothy Li

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