China Will Impose Data Collection Restrictions on Apps Starting in May

  • China has announced that a clearly defined context of data collection restrictions will apply soon.
  • Each app will be allowed to collect what is directly relevant to the services it aims to provide.
  • It is unclear if China will go hard on this or not, but it currently looks like a guideline for developers.

In about a month from now, on May 1, 2021, apps in Chinese phones will no longer be allowed to collect any personal data or other sensitive details from their users. This proposal has been under consideration and review since December 2020, and the Cyberspace Administration, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the State Administration for Market Regulation have now officially announced that it’s going to be adopted.

What will apply from May and on is that apps will only be allowed to collect the necessary data for the core functions to work. For example, a navigation app will still be allowed to collect location data. However, none of what is outside the core function sphere will be permitted, as this data is thought to be collected for advertisement purposes and nothing else.

All that said, it depends on the category of the software and what it’s called to do. Back in December, the following clarifications were given in that respect:

  • Maps and navigation: Necessary personal information: location information
  • Instant messaging: the registered user's mobile phone number or other real identity information, list of contact accounts
  • Online shopping: the registered user's mobile phone number or other real identity information, name, address, and telephone number of the recipient, payment information.
  • Online Games: the registered user's mobile phone number or other real identity information
  • Mobile banking: the registered user's mobile phone number or other real identity information, user's name, ID type and number, ID expiration date, copy of ID, bank card number, and mobile phone number associated with the bank, payee's name, and bank card number.
  • Email and cloud drives: the registered user's mobile phone number or other real identity information (the App provider is to provide a variety of options for the user to choose one).
  • Security Tools, Browsers, Photography enhancement, Sports and fitness apps, News apps, Video and Webcast apps: basic functional services are to be available without requiring personal information.

For the full list with all details about all app categories, check out this page.

The Chinese state presents this new regulation as a guideline, so it is unclear if strict enforcement action will take place or not. Possibly, developers will be pushed to adopt the new practices, or at least give users a choice to refuse the extraneous data collection. If they do, the ads they’ll be served will just be less relevant to their interests.

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