China's New Cybersecurity Law Is Bad for Businesses & Consumers

China isn't exactly renowned for its online leniency, but recent cybersecurity news out of the country reveals even more stringent requirements on Chinese citizens and foreign companies operating online. While the latest legislation claims to combat hacking and digital terrorism, critics say the real goal is to strengthen Beijing's censorship regime.

Here are a few things you need to know about the latest cyber laws out of China. Be sure to bookmark CyberPolicy's cybersecurity news section to stay up to date on all the latest happenings in the cyber world.

Prohibited Conversations & the Government's Prying Eye
Internet citizens, or 'netizens,' have generally enjoyed the ability to surf the web at their pleasure, establish an online persona or explore new and different ideas. However, these privileges don't exactly mesh with China's unitary state.

As part of its new cybersecurity law, Chinese citizens are required to use their real names when signing up for instant messaging and provide personal information when joining an online service. TechCrunch reports that real−name policies restrict anonymity and encourage self−censorship for online communication. Likewise, the companies providing these services are required to uphold these real-name stipulations and censor content deemed "prohibited."

You might be wondering, "what exactly qualifies as 'prohibited' under the new cybersecurity law?" Below are a few of the most eye catching examples of "illegal information":

  • Individuals are prohibited from using the internet to "endanger national security, advocate terrorism or extremism, [or] propagate ethnic hatred and discrimination."
  • Individuals are prohibited from "overthrowing the socialist system."
  • Individuals are prohibited from "fabricating or spreading false information to disturb economic order."
  • The law bans the use of online communications "to incite separatism or damage national unity."
  • The law prohibits individuals or groups from establishing "websites and communication groups" that are used for "spreading criminal methods" or "other information related to unlawful and criminal activities."

While under the guise of preventing criminal activities or social unrest, the articles under the new cybersecurity law is primarily meant to chill conversations on social media. Human Rights Watch reports that these "crimes" are regularly used to punish and jail peaceful activists, sometime for lengthy sentences.

The new law also gives China the authority to shut down sites, products and services at will, in response to any perceived security incidents. Additionally, companies operating in the country will be forced to store data locally, making it fair game for government surveillance.

The Great Firewall of China
As you might expect, the recent cybersecurity news raised international concern from corporations and human rights activists. Foreign companies have strongly criticized the law, saying it will harm business and trade.

Even worse, the new law requires companies to provide "technical support" to security agencies to aide in investigations. While "technical support" is yet undefined, it is most likely a euphemism for backdoors to the data collected on consumers.

In the end, China's new cybersecurity law formalizes the practices already used by the regime to silence criticism and limit free speech online. Businesses operating in China will have to adjust to the new guidelines whether they like it or not.

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