China's internet regulator found that CNKI had collected user data without consent.
China’s internet watchdog slapped a 50 million yuan (US$6.9 million) fine on the country’s largest academic research database China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) for illegal data handling practices, which comes a year after it was put under a cybersecurity review.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it initiated an investigation of CNKI’s handling of data based on the cybersecurity review. It found that 14 mobile applications run by CNKI illegally collected user data, among other violations, according to a statement by the agency of September 6.
These apps were found to have collected data without user consent and gathered personal data that was not essential, the CAC said. They also failed to clearly disclose how the data would be used and did not allow users to delete their accounts, it added.
CNKI said it “sincerely accepts and will resolutely obey” the CAC’s decision.
Last June, the CAC initiated an investigation based on CNKI’s collection of a large amount of personal information and important data covering areas that include national defence, telecommunications and finance, as well as “sensitive information” related to major national projects, significant technological achievements and the development of core technologies.
Founded in 1999 by China’s elite Tsinghua University and its subsidiaries, CNKI’s archives now cover more than 90 per cent of the academic journals published in mainland China, and about 40 per cent of the material available through subscriptions are exclusive to the platform, according to its website.
The CAC’s 50 million yuan fine also added to the 87.6 million yuan penalty from China’s antitrust watchdog last year over CNKI’s monopolistic behaviour.
The State Administration for Market Regulation announced the fine in December after a seven-month investigation that found the company abused its dominant market position. The regulator said the CNKI platform, where the majority of Chinese scholars and students access academic papers, imposed unreasonable price hikes for subscriptions.