China needs to focus on data privacy. Source: Shutterstock

China needs to focus on data privacy. Source: Shutterstock

China directs internet companies to ramp up data privacy policies

DATA PRIVACY is a hot-button issue in today’s data-driven society. Recent controversies involving data breaches around the world have caused government bodies to ramp up data privacy regulations.

In the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, China has been in the news recently for developing stricter regulations and the tightening data privacy laws.

China’s internet regulators have reiterated the importance of data protection, and requested that businesses, particularly internet companies, take action to further secure consumer’s personal data.

The directive comes on the heels of concerns raised around the irresponsible use of consumer data under the guise of conducting ‘research’ by some of the fast-growing internet companies in the country.

In response to this, China’s national internet finance association issued a report stating that member organizations must not, under any reasonable circumstances, reveal personal consumer information to third parties.

Also, it outlined the other responsibilities of member organizations such as the obligations of organizations to protect, report, and amend problems concerning consumer personal information. It also noted that organizations must ensure that consumers are well informed about the risks of divulging personal data.

Internet companies in China often applaud the collection of large amounts of consumer data to be utilized by artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

They justify this by claiming that harvesting data for AI learning is essential for enhancing customer experience (CX). However, when asked to up their data privacy game, these companies are slow to respond.

This is not the first time that a call to enhance data privacy controls has been issued. It is merely an echo of a previous warning issued by the China Consumer Association (CCA) earlier this year.

At the time, it was reported that out of 100 mobile apps, 91 were collecting a barrage of unnecessary personal information including user location, contact lists, and so on.

Aside from issuing warnings, Chinese authorities are playing their part in mitigating the risk of data privacy breaches by drafting improved privacy laws, and actively seeking public feedback concerning these matters.

Consumers these days are tech-savvy, and are increasingly aware of their data privacy rights. They have the freedom to post their concerns on social media, and also to share with other netizens information on fishy apps that collects unnecessary personal data. Thus, seeking public feedback is ideal as they can provide unbiased, actionable insights, and also a direction for improvement.

China’s move to clamp down on privacy breaches is praiseworthy. However, it must be recognized that protecting consumer data is not a one-man show, but a concerted effort by the government, companies, and consumers themselves.

It must be understood that when consumers reveal personal data, they are trusting that the organization will take all possible measures to protect data privacy.

Consumer trust should never be taken for granted. Businesses that are wise to prioritize data privacy, and ensure that they are in compliance with the latest data privacy regulations will always be able to gain access to the right data and delight customers sufficiently.