Since November, regulators have launched inspections of 2.44 million apps and listed 2,049 violators.

China’s top internet industry regulator Thursday ordered app stores to remove download access to 106 mobile applications over alleged privacy violations in the latest move to crack down on data security breaches.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said (link in Chinese) the apps are barred from new downloads for failures to correct misconduct as regulators required after they were found to collect excess private information, misuse users’ data or force users to grant unnecessary access to personal data.

The affected apps include popular book and movie review platform Douban, online karaoke service provider Changba, second-hand goods trading platform Aihuishou and news aggregator Kankan News.

Five of the 106 apps including Douban and Changba were listed by the MIIT early last month along with 33 other apps for misdeeds such as excessively collecting users’ data or publishing misleading information. The ministry ordered operators of the apps, also including Tencent’s QQ Music streaming service, social media platform Xiaohongshu and Alibaba’s mobile UC Browser, to fix the problems by Nov. 9. Those that failed to do so would face punishment, the ministry said at that time.

The move is the latest of a series of efforts to tighten regulatory scrutiny of personal information protection. Since 2019, the MIIT has pursued special campaigns targeting data-related misconduct of apps and their developers. The latest was announced Nov. 5 and was set to run five months.

Since November, regulators have launched inspections of 2.44 million apps and listed 2,049 violators. Download removal orders were issued to 540 apps that failed to satisfy regulators with proper corrections.

In late November, social media giant Tencent was suspended from releasing new mobile applications and updating existing ones without regulators’ approval under a “temporary administrative guidance” after several of Tencent’s products were accused of violating consumer interests.

Caixin learned that the punishment came after nine Tencent apps were named by the MIIT on four separate lists of violators. According to rules published by the MIIT this year, companies found to have committed violations four times are subject to relative administrative measures.

Chinese internet giants are facing greater compliance pressure after the country rolled out new laws and regulations to govern tech companies’ handling of users’ personal information, including the Data Security Law that came into force Sept. 1 and the new Personal Information Protection Law enacted Nov. 1.

All internet companies are scrambling to adjust their operations to comply with the new laws, a tech company’s legal department staffer said.

“For a long time, the internet industry has run businesses on the basis of abusing users’ information,” the person said. “There are so many things to be changed, and every company may run afoul of regulators in the face of the stricter laws.”

Source: Caixin Global