With the rapid development of the digital economy, we can basically do everything online – order food, shop, hail taxis (叫出租车) and even seek health counseling (咨询). But with convenience also comes risks: By handing over data such as our name, home address, phone number and health condition to service providers, we’re risking our personal information being illegally collected and abused.
Just how serious is the problem?
According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, last year 160,000 apps were reviewed by officers with industry and information technology departments nationwide. Also, 39 app operators were ordered to stop excessive (过度的) or illegal data collection practices, while 191 apps were removed from online app stores. Police also arrested over 13,000 people suspected of illegally collecting, stealing or purchasing personal data.
This is why China plans to make a personal information protection law. It is now being studied and drafted (草拟), said Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) at a press conference on March 4.
According to Zhang, there are existing laws, regulations and rules concerning personal information protection in China – including the Criminal Law and E-Commerce Law – but they are quite scattered (分散的). So it’s necessary to make a specific law to comprehensively curb (遏制) illegal usage of personal information, in order to strengthen protection of people’s privacy (隐私) and legal rights.
The NPC Standing Committee will also work on a number of laws relevant to artificial intelligence (AI) – another major part of the digital economy.
“AI is a strategic (战略的) technology which will lead the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation (转型),” said Zhang. But he also pointed out that there is uncertainty associated with the application of AI technology, which may bring new challenges in terms of legal, ethical and public policies.
Therefore, China will on the one hand “encourage the development of AI technology and its application” and on the other hand, “strengthen prevention and proper guidance to ensure it’s secure and controllable”.