China is set to pass one of the world’s strictest legislation on data privacy, called the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL). The law aims to limit how private companies can gather user information but has no bearing on the government’s approach to data collection.
The developments were reported by The Wallstreet Journal. The new legislation is already drawing comparison to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Violations of that law have already seen the EU dishing out huge fines. Unlike the EU, where governments also face scrutiny, the Chinese legislation reserves the right of Beijing to maintain access to data.
This should come as no surprise. Recently, the Supreme People’s Court—the highest court in China—ruled in favor of allowing citizens to opt out of being subject to facial recognition by private entities. This option wasn’t granted for the government’s use of this authorization method.
Aligning the Spheres
The PIPL takes specific aim at curbing “predatory” practices. These include adjusting prices based on customers’ shopping history, using algorithms to influence behavior, and limiting access to competing services.
Clamping down on the private sphere while bolstering the government’s influence over citizens is consistent with Beijing’s vision of social harmony and stability. The government will still be able to use data for background checks and people searching, for example.
China is increasingly working to limit the private industry’s sphere of influence. The premise for this is that the lack of restraint poses a risk to citizens. Imposing control will offer the tools for the governance and centralization of that influence.
The passing of this legislation is a big step towards that.