A slew of Chinese firms that run popular smartphone apps have found themselves in hot water after regulators found that they had not sufficiently protected their users’ data.

Why it matters: The investigation is the latest in a series of crackdowns by Chinese regulators, aimed at stemming the overcollection of personal data as people become more aware of the danger of breaches.

  • Some of the apps provide financial services, making the nature of the data even more sensitive.
  • Given the size of the country’s internet population, there is a wealth of information that can be exploited by data thieves. In addition, personal information often comes cheap.

Details: The apps had access to excessive amounts of user data, the regulators said. Apps were censured for collecting personal information without users’ approval and not providing clear data protection guidelines, according to the cross-industry team that conducted the investigation.

  • The companies concerned include online housing platform Anjuke, trading platform Tiger Brokers, and fintech platforms Yirendai, PPmoney, Renrendai, and WeShare, among others.
  • Around 40 apps have been ordered to fix the issues within 30 days.
  • The investigative team, dubbed the Personal Information Protection Task Force on Apps,  was set up by the Ministry of Public Security, the General Administration of Market Supervision, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, among others.

Context: With the explosion of online services in China comes the risk of data falling into the wrong hands. Data breaches in the world’s most populated country are common, with personal data going for as little as RMB 1 ($0.15) in some cases.

  • The China Consumers Association previously classified data breaches as an “extremely serious” issue.
  • In early June, Alibaba’s food delivery arm Ele.me, social e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu, voice recognition leader iFlytek, and NetEase’s cross-border e-commerce site Kaola were also found to collect too much user data.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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