China has begun probing major tech firms in its region over concerns about national security. The firms under scrutiny have recently gone public on the US stock market, despite tensions between the US and their homeland.
This past weekend, the Apple-backed rideshare app Didi was pulled from app stores in China by the government over security concerns. It appears this was only the first firm in a growing wave of scrutiny.
On Monday, China’s Cyberspace Security Review Office announced that it would be probing two truck hire services, Yunmanman and Huochebang (which together make up Full Truck Alliance), as well as a job listing site, Boss Zhipin.
No new users may register, but existing customers can still use the services. The scrutiny arises from the fact that all these firms are listed in foreign exchanges, and therefore, may be influenced by parties external to China.
A commentary summarizing the situation appeared in the state-run tabloid Global Times:
“[We] must never let any internet giant become a super database of Chinese people’s personal information that contains even more details than the state, let alone giving them the right to use those data at will.”
Striving to Centralize
Governments around the world are taking steps to try and limit or control the activities of big tech firms. Recently, Russia passed a new law requiring social media firms to establish a local physical presence. In other countries, companies are facing fines for violating data protection regulations.
China has been particularly proactive when it comes to centralizing control of data, going so far as to shut out foreign apps, such as Facebook Messenger and Twitter. While regular citizens can’t officially use them, big Chinese firms can access foreign apps like Twitter through government-approved VPN services.
China is essentially trying to balance the control of data with the utility that globe-spanning apps serve when it comes to business and economics.