On 25 June 2016, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC)
published its new Administrative Provisions on Internet Information
Search Services (the "Search Provisions"). Three days
later, the Administrative Provisions on Mobile Internet
Applications Information Services (the "Mobile
Provisions") were released. Both Provisions will come into
effect on 1 August 2016.
The Search Provisions impose several new obligations on Internet
information search service providers ("Search
Providers"), which are broadly defined as those that
"utilise computer technology to collect and process
information on the Internet for retrieval by users" including
search engines and social media providers. Search Providers shall:
(1) adopt information security management systems to enable the
review and real-time inspection of the information by the relevant
government agencies, and protection of personal information; (2)
not post or allow obscene content and other content prohibited by
laws; (3) block the search results prohibited by laws and report
them to the CAC; (4) provide search results that are objective,
impartial and authoritative; (5) mark paid search results and
segregate them from natural search results; and (6) establish
comprehensive systems for public complaints and reports.
The release of the Search Provisions was triggered by the death
of a young man, who chose a hospital based on an Internet search on
a Chinese search engine but received ineffective hospital treatment
not yet fully approved.
The Mobile Provisions govern mobile Internet application
providers ("Mobile Providers") where mobile Internet
applications refer to "application software obtained through
pre-installation or downloads and used in mobile smart terminals to
provide information services to users." Mobile Providers need
to satisfy six requirements when operating in China: (1) verify new
app users' mobile phone numbers and other identity information;
(2) abide by the principles of legality, propriety and necessity
when collecting and processing personal data; (3) punish those
publishing information content that violates laws and regulations,
and report the same to the relevant government agencies; (4) shall
not access location, address books, cameras, audio recording or
other functions unrelated to the service or bundled application of
unrelated applications without users' express consent; (5)
respect and protect intellectual property (IP) rights; and (6)
record user logs and keep them for at least sixty days.
The Mobile Provisions also impose some similar obligations on
mobile Internet application stores ("Mobile Stores"). For
example, Mobile Stores are required to share management
responsibilities by verifying the legitimacy of the Mobile
Providers and ensuring them to respect users' privacy and IP
The Mobile Provisions are aimed to curtail the use of mobile
apps to incite violence, terrorism, fraud, or pornography, or
infringing users' privacy according to the CAC. The number of
mobile Internet users in China stood at 619 million in 2015 and
over four million mobile applications are currently available from
domestic Mobile Stores with the number increasing rapidly.
While both Provisions impose duties to providers to sanction
content and report violations to the government agencies, they do
enhance users' overall online privacy and IP. Specifically, the
requirement that express consent must be given before accessing
certain functions of a mobile device may prove critical in managing
the risks of mobile privacy.
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This article provides information and comments on legal
issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a
comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not
intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific
legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters
discussed herein. Please also read the JSM legal publications
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