Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC)

On May 28, 2019, the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) released the draft Measures for Data Security Management (“Draft Measures”) for public comment. (An official Chinese version of the Draft Measures is available here and an unofficial English translation is available here.) The comment period ends on June 28, 2019.

The release of these Draft Measures demonstrates China’s continuing efforts to implement the data protection requirements imposed by China’s Cybersecurity Law (“CSL”). For example, under Article 41 of the CSL, network operators must notify individuals of the purposes, methods and scope of the information collection and use, and obtain their consent before collecting or using individuals’ personal information. Furthermore, under Article 42 and 43 of the CSL, network operators must not disclose, tamper with, or damage citizens’ personal information that they have collected, and they are further obligated to delete unlawfully collected information and amend incorrect information.

To implement the CSL, the CAC and the Standardization Administration of China issued a national standard for personal information protection (“Standard”) on January 2, 2018, which took effect on May 1, 2018 (see our previous blog post about that Standard here). A draft amendment to the Standard (“Draft Amendment”) was released for public comment on February 1, 2019 (see our previous blog post about the Draft Amendment here). The new Draft Measures incorporate some of personal information protection requirements specified in the Standard and the Draft Amendment, and also introduce a number of new requirements for the protection of “important data,” which was initially mentioned in Article 21 and 37 of the CSL, but was not defined.

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On March 15, 2019, the State Administration for Market Regulation and the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) jointly issued the Announcement on the Implementation of App Security Certification (the “Announcement”), creating a voluntary (but state-sanctioned) security certification scheme for mobile applications (“Security Certification Scheme”).

Operators of mobile applications are encouraged to obtain this certification to demonstrate their compliance with China’s national standard, GB/T 35273 Information Security Technology — Personal Information Security Specification (“the Standard”), in terms of their collection and use of personal data (our previous blogpost about the Standard can be found here).  Search engines and mobile application stores are encouraged to recommend certified applications to users.

The Implementation Rules on Security Certification of Mobile Internet Application (“Implementing Rules”), which set out detailed procedural requirements for the Security Certification Scheme, were also released at the same time as an annex to the Announcement.

Although not mandatory, as the state-sanctioned certification scheme for personal information protection, the creation of this program illustrates the Chinese regulators’ willingness to use soft tools to encourage best practices in the marketplace.
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On February 1, 2019, China’s National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee (“TC260”) released a set of amendments to GB/T 35273-2017 Information Technology – Personal Information Security Specification (“the Standard”) for public comment.  The comment period ends on March 3.

Although not legally binding, the Standard has been highly influential since becoming effective in May 2018, as it set out the best practices expected by Chinese regulators (see our previous blogpost on the Standard here).  The Standard has been widely used by companies to benchmark their compliance efforts in China.

The draft amendments reflect Chinese regulators’ evolved thinking on a number of important topics that are hotly debated around the world, such as enhanced notice and consent requirements and requirements for target advertising.  The draft amendments would also introduce new requirements for third party access to data and revise notification requirements for data beaches, among other proposed changes.
Continue Reading China Releases Draft Amendments to the Personal Information Protection Standard

On January 2, 2018, the Standardization Administration of China (“SAC”) released the final version of the national standard on personal information protection, officially entitled GB/T 35273-2017 Information Technology – Personal Information Security Specification (GB/T 35273-2017 信息安全技术 个人信息安全规范) (hereinafter “the Standard”).  The Standard will come into effect on May 1, 2018.

As highlighted in our previous coverage of drafts of the Standard (see here and here), although it is nominally a voluntary framework, the Standard effectively sets out the best practices that will be expected by regulators auditing companies and enforcing China’s existing (but typically more generally-worded) data protection rules, most notably the 2016 Cybersecurity Law.  Drafts of the Standard — even prior its finalization — have also in some cases been the basis for non-compliance remediation plans and undertakings agreed between companies and the Cyberspace Administration of China (“CAC”) following CAC audits, as we reported here.

The Standard applies to “personal information controllers,” namely any private or public organization that has “the power to decide the purpose and method” of processing personal information.  This is seemingly modelled on European law’s “data controller” concept.

The Standard regulates the use of “personal information” by these controllers, a term largely aligned with strict conceptualizations of “personal data” under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).  Examples of “personal information” listed in an annex to the Standard include device hardware serial codes, IP addresses, website tracking records, and unique device identifiers, among other things.  The definition of “sensitive personal information,” however, takes a different approach to the GDPR: rather than applying only to specific types of data, the Standard takes a risk-based approach, defining “sensitive” personal information as any personal information which, if lost or misused, is capable of endangering persons or property, easily harming personal reputation and mental and physical health, or leading to discriminatory treatment.  According to the Standard, this could for example include national identification card numbers, login credentials, banking and credit details, a person’s accurate location, information on a person’s real estate holdings, and information about a minor (under 14 years old).

Similar to general principles of most data protection laws, the Standard requires transparency, specificity and fairness of processing purpose, proportionality (use and retention of only the minimum information necessary to achieve the stated purpose), security, risk assessment, and the respect of individuals’ rights to control the processing of information about them.  It also requires either consent from individuals, or reliance on a limited range of exceptions set out in the Standard, for the purpose of collection and processing of personal information.

This article looks at some of these aspects in more detail, including some of their key divergences from European data protection law, including the GDPR.  (Please note that this is not an exhaustive description of the Standard, nor is it a detailed comparison with the GDPR.)
Continue Reading China Issues New Personal Information Protection Standard