When the winner takes it all: big data in China and the battle for privacy

Big data Privacy Artificial Intelligence (AI) China

If data is the new oil, China is oil super-rich. Data is the essential ingredient for artificial intelligence (AI) and is underpinning a wide-ranging revolution.

China’s massive population, lack of privacy protections, controlled tech sector and authoritarian system of governance give it a huge edge in collecting the data needed for that revolution. But the Chinese state and Chinese businesses are also using this wealth of data to pursue state and business goals without the constraints present in other jurisdictions. A lack of privacy protections and rule-of-law protections leaves Chinese citizens at the whim of sophisticated, and often state-controlled, data-driven technologies.

Private companies are not only sharing users’ personal data with the authorities in compliance with China’s regulatory environment such as the most recent Cybersecurity Law but many of those companies—including the industry leaders—are building their business model predominantly around the needs of the state.

This paper examines Chinese state policy on big data industries and analyses the laws and regulations on data collection that companies in China are required to comply with. It also looks at how those rules may affect foreign companies eyeing the China market. Case studies are included to demonstrate the ongoing tensions between big data applications and privacy. The paper concludes by outlining the implications and lessons for other countries

Publication Details
Issues Paper Report No.5/2018
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