China’s internet watchdog tightens mobile app rules for national security, requires promotion of ‘core socialist values’
- New rules from the Cybersecurity Administration of China go into effect on August 1 and align with last year’s data security laws
- While China still has a vibrant developer community, recently praised by Apple CEO Tim Cook, the number of apps available halved between 2018 and 2020
China’s internet watchdog has updated its rules regulating mobile app development with stricter requirements for content and data protections, a move that could deal a fresh blow to the country’s developer community after more than 2 million apps disappeared from the market in a three-year span.
The Cybersecurity Administration of China (CAC) on Tuesday published the revised version of the Provisions on the Administration of Mobile Internet Applications Information Services, which will take effect on August 1, doubling the document’s length over the previous version published in 2016.
The CAC said the new rules will promote the “healthy development” of the industry. “With the rapid development and wider use of mobile apps, new situations and problems continued to emerge, which requires [the rules] to be revised and improved to adapt to new developments,” the agency said.
Included in the new rules is a requirement for app providers and distributors to promote “core socialist values” and adhere to the “correct” direction of politics, public opinions and values. App developers are responsible for content showcased in the app, and should not produce or circulate illegal information.
A combination of fierce competition and China’s crackdown on content and data irregularities has contributed to a steep fall in the number of apps available in Chinese app stores in recent years. The total number of apps available in April 2020 was 2.31 million, half of the 4.49 million available at the end of 2018, according to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
However, China still has a vibrant community of app developers, which Apple CEO Tim Cook recently praised for their contribution to its global ecosystem. The country’s 5 million app developers “have always been at the cutting edge”, he told a Chinese media outlet at the Worldwide Developers Conference last week.
After China tightened regulations on cybersecurity and data handling practices last year, the new rules for app developers further highlights cybersecurity and user privacy protection. The CAC document stipulates that app developers not “endanger national security and public interest” when processing data. Security flaws and loopholes must also be reported and amended soon after they are spotted.
App providers are required to be “fair” in their handling of user data, without forcing users to agree to data processing activities or refusing to provide service to those who disagree. All new technologies, applications and functions that can influence public opinion or “mobilise society” must go through a security review process.
The legal basis for the revised regulation include three new laws that went into effect last year: the Personal Information Protection Law, Data Security Law, and the revised Minor Protection Law.
In January, the CAC also announced a new rule that requires companies operating internet platforms with the data of more than 1 million users to undergo a security review before listing on a stock exchange overseas. Another law that went into effect in March tightened control of algorithms used by Big Tech firms to recommend new content.
Author: Iris Deng, SCMP