Chinese Apps Warned Of Breaching User Privacy With Scary Data Collection Practices

( Just how egregious does an app have to be to get called out by the Communist Chinese Party over privacy concerns?

Last week China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reported forty-three apps for illegally transferring user data and warned the companies to rectify the issues by the end of this week.

Among the illegal behavior cited, was transferring users’ locations and contacts, as well as harassing users with pop-up windows.

If the apps are not fixed by the end of the week, punishment would follow. The 43 apps currently on the hook include Tencent Holdings’ WeChat, Tencent Map, and Tencent video. The Ministry also called out Alibaba’s e-reading app, iQiyi video streaming app, and travel agency’s platform.

So far this year the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has issued eight rectification lists to Chinese tech companies whose apps were accused of illegally collecting personal data from users.

In July, Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing company, was ordered to take down its apps from the country’s app stores. According to China’s cybersecurity regulator, Didi Chuxing had illegally collected and used personal data from its users. Just days before it was ordered to take down its apps, Didi Chuxing had raised $4.4 billion in its US IPO.

In late July, WeChat announced that it had temporarily stopped registering new users in order to upgrade its security technology so that it conformed with “relevant laws and regulations.” Just three days before WeChat made that announcement, Beijing’s anti-monopoly regulator had fined WeChat’s parent company approximately $77,100 for its anti-competitive behavior in China’s music market.

In addition to cracking down on its Chinese-based tech companies, the CCP has also begun to tighten its grip on overseas-based companies as well. In early August, the US based language-learning app, Duolingo, was no longer available from Android app stores in China, including those operated by Huawei Technologies, Tencent Holdings, and Xiaomi.

While Chinese officials have kept silent on why the app disappeared, it is likely related to Beijing’s recent ban on education institutions providing overseas courses to Chinese students and its crackdown on for-profit, after-school tutoring courses.

In the first six months of 2021, over 370 apps were taken down by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology after those companies refused to rectify their operations once they received the initial warning to do so.