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China names, shames tech giant over privacy infractions

Agence France-Presse

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Beijing (AFP) — Chinese tech giants Tencent and Xiaomi have been reprimanded by Beijing for designing apps that infringe on users’ privacy, even as the Communist regime amasses its own collection of personal data.

China, which exercises close surveillance of online activity, has recently tightened its scrutiny of companies that gather data from consumers.

Xiaomi Finance and Tencent’s instant messaging service QQ were among dozens of problematic apps named and shamed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Thursday.

QQ forces users to allow the app to track their usage habits so it can show targeted ads, the ministry said in a statement.

If users do not give up their phone permissions, they cannot access the app at all, it added — warning of “punishment” if the privacy issues are not fixed by 31 December.

Smartphone maker Xiaomi’s finance app created “difficulty” for users looking to cancel their account, the statement said.

The ministry’s full list included software from a Beijing public library as well as grocery delivery and train-booking services, reflecting how widely apps have permeated everyday life in China — often with little regulatory oversight.

It said more than 8,000 apps had already been “rectified” as part of a national push to protect users’ rights, but the 41 listed in its announcement Thursday had yet to fully address privacy issues.

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