New rules from the Cybersecurity Administration of China go into effect on August 1 and demand from app providers to promote "core socialist values".
The Cybersecurity Administration of China (CAC) has updated its rules regulating mobile app development with stricter requirements for content and data protections, SCMP reported. That could deal a new blow to the country's developer community, with more than 2 million apps already disappearing from the market in the past three years.
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.
Such requirements, on the one hand, help strengthen the central government, but, on the other hand, set a general direction, leaving room for developers to interpret, says Maria Belyaeva, an expert at the BRICS Competition Centre.
"The vagueness of requirements and lack of clear definitions are generally characteristic of the Chinese regulatory environment. In Chinese, this phenomenon is reflected in the expression "crossing the river by groping for rocks": that is, moving forward cautiously by groping, without a step-by-step plan, but keeping the end goal in sight. In this case, it is a healthy development without kinks, compliance with the law and guarantee of users' rights. This strategy allows each market participant to choose its own unique path, which, nevertheless, will lead to the common goal",
says Maria Belyaeva.
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 vs the 4.49 million available at the end of 2018.
However, China still has a vibrant community of app developers, which Apple CEO Tim Cook praised for their contribution to its global ecosystem.
Last year, China tightened regulations on cybersecurity and data handling practices; the new rules focus even more on these issues. 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.
It is also forbidden to force users to consent to data processing activities or deny services to those who do not agree to provide data. All new technologies, applications and functions that can influence public opinion or “mobilise society” must go through a security review process.
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.