Everything EU Wanted to Know About Privacy in China


China has a privacy regime, sorta-kinda. You can, apparently, make out the faint outline of a data protection framework if you throw a really broad net, stay open-minded about what might constitute a privacy law, and use your imagination.

That’s the general takeaway of a European Union-requested report on data privacy under Chinese law. Nevertheless, EU researchers say the realities of modern data flows and cloud computing mean that the EU must work with China. Avoiding it is not an option.

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee requested a report on “The data protection regime in China.” The amazingly not-at-all-lengthy-like-some-official-EU-reports-can-be-report comes in at a svelte 36-pages and concludes: “One cannot talk about a proper data protection regime in China, at least not as it is perceived in the EU.” 

Researchers found that China doesn’t have unequivocal personal data processing principles. It doesn’t unequivocally grant individual rights to information, access and rectification. It lacks an efficient enforcement mechanism. Even so, there are “several relevant sectorial laws that, under a combined reading together with basic criminal and civil law provisions, may add up to a data protection cumulative effect,” the report says.

Not quite a ringing endorsement. Nevertheless, given the realities of personal data flows around the world—and contemporary cloud computing scenarios—avoiding China because of privacy concerns isn’t an option because doing so would stifle commercial and other relationships.

Instead, EU officials should make specific privacy policy recommendations to China. That way, it will have “the opportunity to demonstrate that its recent data protection effort is part of a persistent, yet concise, policy and not just a pretext to attract more internal and external information processing business,” the report says.

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