China has renewed its offensive against apps that incorrectly collect data, taking offline around 100 apps in an investigation targeting numerous industries including the banking and e-commerce sectors.

Why it matters: China authorities are cracking down on apps that over-collect personal information as internet companies’ failures to protect users persist and data theft remains a widespread issue.

  • The government this year set up a task force to combat the mishandling of personal data in apps.
  • Overcollection and miscollection of personal data are putting Chinese internet users at risk, a high profile non-profit cybersecurity center said earlier this year.

Details: China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has removed the apps and ordered that issues be “rectified” in cases where apps over-collected data, did not have privacy agreements, or were unclear about the data that they collected.

  • Sixty-three apps received warnings and 27 were ordered to rectify problems on their platforms. Meanwhile, 10 companies were fined and two are under criminal investigation.
  • The MPS has punished nearly 700 apps in the second half of the year for illegal personal data collection.
  • Apps included in this round of crackdowns include China Everbright Bank, Bank of Tianjin, e-commerce services Weidian and Kaola, and online housing rental platform

Context: Data overcollection and information breaches have become a significant issue in China, where the market for illicit information is booming.

  • In August, China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CN-CERT) warned that the illegal use of personal information had become “a prominent issue.”
  • The cybersecurity center said that 30% of all apps it investigated in its first-half report requested smartphone privileges the apps didn’t need to function.
  • A significant number of apps displayed “abnormal behaviors,” the organization said, including detecting other applications on a phone or requesting permission to read and write files.

China’s internet population at risk as apps collect too much data: CN-CERT

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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