Business / Policy Watch

China's top legislature mulls Internet regulation

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-12-25 11:22

BEIJING - The top legislature on Monday began deliberating a draft decision that will strengthen the protection of personal information online by requiring Internet users to identify themselves to service providers.

The move is intended to better protect Internet users' privacy and provide a legal basis for safeguarding online information safety to ensure the healthy and orderly development of the Internet, according to a spokesman for the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

The draft decision, submitted to the bimonthly session of the NPC Standing Committee, says authorities will protect digital information that could be used to determine the identity of a user or that concerns a user's privacy.

The draft decision proposes the adoption of an identity management policy requiring Internet users to identify themselves to service providers, including Internet or telecommunications operators.

"Such identity management could be conducted backstage, allowing users to use different names when publicizing information," Li Fei, deputy director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, told lawmakers on Monday.

Li Yuxiao, an expert on Internet management and law studies at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications, said it would be "empty talk" to discuss protection rights for individuals under the condition of complete anonymity.

The identity management policy enables people to "protect their lawful rights by providing real names while building an environment of free exchange under anonymity," Li said.

The draft decision also empowers supervising departments to take necessary measures to supervise Internet activities.

Citizens who find online information that infringes upon their own rights have the right to demand service providers to take necessary measures to stop such information from being provided, it says.

The draft decision specifies norms and duties for network service providers during the collection, use and protection of people's personal digital information.

Network service providers, other government-sponsored institutions and companies, as well as government agencies and their personnel, should strictly ensure the protection of personal digital information, it says.

To tackle surging public complaints regarding spam messages, the draft bans organizations and individuals from sending business-related digital information to people's mobile phones or email addresses without their consent.

The draft also encourages the public to report illegal activity involving online information to supervisory departments.

Lagging laws

"The development of new information technology, including mobile Internet, the Internet of Things and cloud computing in recent years has posed severe challenges to information security," Li said.

Behind China's increasing online scams, fraud, identity theft and libel has been a rapidly growing Internet industry and a frail system of laws for personal information protection, according to Li.

China's estimated number of Internet users mushroomed to more than 538 million as of June this year from about 620,000 in 1997, statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center showed.

Setting legal curbs on online information transmission has been a common practice worldwide. More than 90 countries and regions have special laws regarding the protection of personal information.

Zhou Hanhua, a law research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the regulations in the draft decision are not detailed enough.

"It did not specify function or power division among network supervisory departments. These need to be further specified in the future," Zhou said.

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