The founder and CEO of technology giant Baidu sparked controversy last week during a talk with attendees at one of China's largest economic forums. During his comments, Robin Li explained that mainland internet users are less concerned about issues of privacy than others across the globe. The reaction online inside the country was immediate and mostly negative.
Li was speaking at the China Development Forum, an annual economic event this year held in Beijing. The forum aims to bring together government policymakers and many of the wealthiest and most influential people in business world. When the issue of data protection came up — especially prominent since the disclosure of Facebook's recent struggles — Li said, in part:
I think that the Chinese people are more open, or not so sensitive, about the privacy issue. If they are able to exchange privacy for convenience or efficiency, they are willing to do so in many cases...[We will] make the use of data beneficial to data owners and make them willing to grant the right to use it.
In a country where computer and mobile applications like WeChat are omnipresent and access tens, if not hundreds, of millions of users' data daily, Li's comments struck a nerve. Online message boards lit up with derisive comments. One of the more popular related posts on microblogging service Weibo read, "It is a great sorrow that such a person is regarded as a key opinion leader in his industry".
According to a report published by state media outlet People's Net, other netizens labeled Li's assertions "shameless", "cheeky", "despicable" and "nonsense". But despite the outpouring of negative remarks and the ensuing weeklong online conversation, internet privacy advocates in China face an uphill battle.
The country's big three technology companies, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent — often simply referred to together as 'BAT' — work closely with Beijing. All three corporations are currently testing and fine-tuning their own 'social credit' systems. When fully implemented in 2020, these government-initiated ranking programs will use big data analytics to assign a 'score' for every Chinese citizen.
Results will be based on criteria spanning five broad categories — compliance, security, wealth, shopping, and social connections. Online spending habits, search histories, interactions with other netizens, debt management and other factors will be used to rank China's 1.3 billion citizens. Although details remain murky, those with low scores could face restricted travel options, less-desirable job opportunities and limited access to loans and lines of credit, among other penalties.© Copyright 2005-2018 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.