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China’s new data security initiative urges tech firms to not install backdoors

China is addressing the growing global concerns and pushback against Chinese tech companies with a set of new data security standards. The country has announced (via CNBC) a new global initiative that outlines principles urging participants to respect other governments’ sovereignty in how they handle data.

In the last year, Chinese tech firms that have gone viral overseas such as TikTok and PUBG Mobile have been accused of unlawfully siphoning up user data and sharing it with the Chinese government. While China has repeatedly denied these accusations, it’s hoping to explicitly put such concerns to rest with this new global security initiative. It’s not a law, however, and only the tech companies that sign up for it will be required to follow the principles.

The new data initiative advises companies not to install “backdoors in their products and services to illegally obtain users’ data, control or manipulate users’ systems and devices” and calls for a ban on activities that “infringe upon personal information.” Further, it asks all countries to handle data security in a “comprehensive, objective, and evidence-based manner.”

We’ve reached out to TikTok and other affected companies like Tencent, which owns PUBG Mobile and WeChat, and Huawei for a comment and we’ll update the story when we hear back.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Washington’s crackdown on TikTok and Huawei “blatant acts of bullying” and added: “Bent on unilateral acts, a certain country keeps making groundless accusations against others in the name of ‘clean’ network and used security as a pretext to prey on enterprises of other countries who have a competitive edge.”

Last month, the United States unveiled the Clean Network program that seeks to keep the American ecosystem of tech services and products such as app stores and network carriers free of companies that have Chinese roots. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said it’s a “comprehensive approach to safeguarding the nation’s assets including citizens’ privacy and companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party.”

China recently also updated its tech export law to cover “recommendation of personalized information services based on data.” The amendment is reported to have further complicated TikTok’s U.S. sale.

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