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Apps should not infringe upon users' privacy

China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-14 07:21

The Personal Information Protection Law, which will take effect on Nov 1, clarifies principles in handling personal data. [Photo/IC]

A smartphone user recently complained that Meituan, a popular food and express delivery app provider, was tracking his location every five minutes and WeChat, a social messaging app with 1.2 billion users, was repeatedly checking his photo gallery.

It emerged that even Taobao, QQ, Weibo and Sougou Input were infringing upon users' privacy in some way or the other.

As the news went viral on the internet, WeChat responded by saying it was the operating system of the phone prompting the app to prepare for any "changes", while Meituan said that most mainstream apps function in similar ways.

These are examples of how apps are collecting more information about users than is necessary.

For the enterprises, however, collecting user information is par for the course, because the more information they collect, the better services they claim they can deliver to survive in a cut-throat market even if the users feel that their privacy is being breached.

So who is going to monitor the behavior of these enterprises and protect consumers' rights?

Legislative bodies at all levels have introduced many laws and regulations for protecting personal information and ensuring data security.

The Data Security Law came into effect on Sept 1, and the Personal Information Protection Law will come into force on Nov 11.

Both the laws emphasize the "minimal principle" when it comes to collecting users' personal information, meaning apps should collect only information that is strictly necessary.

Which means express delivery apps should not be constantly tracking users' locations and social messaging apps have no business scanning users' photo galleries.

Even if a user allows messaging apps to access the photo gallery while sharing photographs with someone, it does not mean he or she is authorizing the apps to have unlimited access to his/her data.

App developers should stop violating users' privacy, and government departments should take measures to prevent the breach of users' privacy before the latter complain about it.

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