A government guideline has now come into effect in China which states that certain software and apps that come pre-installed—often termed “bloatware”—on smart devices must now be uninstallable, and must not pass on user data without user approval. Instructions for their removal must also be included with new devices.
Manufacturers now have to open up the settings for pre-installed apps to allow users to delete them; failure to comply will be punishable. New phones and devices will have to ship with the software already removable and accompanying instruction books must detail how to remove the software. If no instruction booklet is included with the handset then the instructions must be included on the device’s packaging.
Manufacturers cannot push uninstalled software back to phones when a user upgrades the operating system and the deletion of any software must not interfere with the phone’s connectivity to any networks.
Smart device manufacturers and internet service providers cannot collect any data on their users without permission. Any charges made by apps will have to be clearer, in terms of what those charges are, how they are collected and that they warnings must be “eye-catching” and charges must require the user’s approval.
The “Interim Provisions for Mobile Smart Device Application Software Pre-sets and Distribution Management” (our translation) were first drafted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in December 2016 but only came into effect July 1.
This follows a constant stream of stories making the news in China about user data being “leaked” at many different touch points in daily life, particularly from mobile phones.
In 2014 South Korea passed similar laws to make it possible to delete pre-loaded content, often called “bloatware” and in September 2016 the release of iOS10 finally made it possible for iPhone users to dump (or at least remove from their screens) unwanted bundled software such as the Stocks and Find Friends apps.