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The surveillance state of China says it wants apps to get consent before tracking users

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Chinese authorities are waking up to the concept of commercial internet companies doctoring “the news feed” based on personal data, user tracking, and machine learning – and don’t appear to like this at all.

TechCrunch writes that Beijing is moving forward with legal proposals aimed at providing better data security within its digital borders, and mandating user consent when it comes to data gathering and usage.

Specifically, the new legislation would force companies “using user data and algorithms to deliver news information or commercial advertisements to conspicuously label them with the words ‘targeted’ and provide users with functionality to stop receiving information from targeted delivery.”

Although the report suggests Beijing’s push is modeled after the EU solutions in the same realm – it does appear to go significantly further in giving users control over what they see in their apps, and how their information is harvested and used.

One could argue that the EU and other Western governments don’t go quite so far in dealing with this particular business model – collecting and monetizing user data, and then shaping the “news” and other feeds to conform to the users’ existing interests and biases – because cracking down on this would undermine the companies relying on it. And some of them are probably simply too big to fail.

In China, companies whose bread-and-butter is adtech will definitely feel the pain of the new legislation, if and when it gets implemented. And those includes such big Chinese players as Baidu, the counterpart to Google, and Tencent and Alibaba, among others, the report said.

But they are not sitting idly by in anticipation of this coming “data regulation” armageddon, either.

Instead, to survive and thrive under these new circumstances, companies dependent on user data will be looking for “alternative ways” to get to it – including by “tricking” users into consenting to hand it over without having a clear idea of how this information is actually used, said an unnamed manager “at a Shenzhen-based tech firm.”

But law firm Taylor Wessing partner Michael Tan thinks the new legislation’s true purpose is national security, rather than citizens’ privacy.

The activities Beijing is taking now in this regard are seen as steps designed to bring focus and clarity to a rather broad 2017 Cybersecurity Law, whose goal was to control data inside the country’s digital space.

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