Chinese regulators issued rules to app developers on Monday spelling out what counts as non-consensual personal data collection.

Why it matters: The rules provide a more explicit reference for app developers to consult when designing apps and may help them to avoid drawing ire from regulators.

Details: The finalized “identification methods for illegal collection of personal information by apps” (in Chinese) document follows draft rules released in May.

  • “Non-consent” refers to apps that lack a privacy policy, or are missing prompts encouraging users to read such policies when using them for the first time. They also refer to scenarios when users need to click more than four times to access privacy policies. 
  • The rules stipulate circumstances that count as collecting personal information unrelated to services provided, collecting information that exceeds business scope, and transferring data to others without consent.
  • They also limit the time for handling related user complaints to 15 working days.

Context: A recent spate of high-profile failures to protect user privacy has spurred public outcry. Rounds of inspections ensued, with regulators taking apps offline for excessive personal data collection.

  • These rules “help clients understand how to design their apps and avoid designs which would constitute non-consent and other unlawful acts,” says Samuel Yang, a data privacy and cybersecurity lawyer and partner at AnJie law firm.
  • App operators argue that their use of such information is necessary to carry out their functions.
  • At last week’s meeting of legislators, National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Li Feiyue said that a “huge risk to personal information security” is that some apps “excessively collect personal information or even see collecting personal information as their main purpose” (in Chinese).
  • Legislators announced that work on new data security and personal information protection laws would start next year.

Lavender covers regulation and its effects on people. She previously worked in a policy advisory analyzing China’s internal governance for foreign governments and multinationals. A History graduate from...

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