So China has a track record of being a bit iffy with personal freedom and protection of personal information. Which is why many tech companies are now freaking out a bit as China wants to pass a law that will allow the government access to devices for anti-terrorism reasons (nothing like the NSA mind you). The problem is that the law will force companies to build in a back door in their security protocols for access. One of the biggest, eponymous and most vocal critics was the President of the United States (is the irony only obvious to me here?) Barack Obama. Really though, what does this mean for security, information sharing and the all seeing eye of Big Brother?
What’s the law entail?
In short, the law (which is still in draft form) stipulates that any tech company working or selling products within China would be obligated to give the Chinese government encryption keys and allow back doors for law enforcement to access data on devices. This makes the U.S. fear that exposing companies to that level of access by the Chinese government will leave customers and device user’s personal information and communications open to abuse.
They don’t have the best personal freedom track record
China already has a heavily restrictive firewall in place that disallows Chinese citizens to access foreign news and social media websites. Although extrapolative, this shows that the Chinese government is not respectful of personal freedom and even worse, has a propensity for regulatory behavior of its citizens. Giving them access to every type of electronic based communication.
The opposite side of the coin
China points out that although the law is sweeping and largely encompassing, it is not very different from the blocking of Huawei and ZTL corp. telecommunication products from the U.S. and Europe due to fears of cyber-security vulnerabilities. Also, China in kind of a jab towards the U.S.’s stance, mentioned that it will not act like the U.S. NSA “…letting authorities run amok and turn counterterrorism into paranoid espionage and peeping on its civilians and allies.” As stated by Xinhua, China’s state run news agency.
This is sounding eerily cold-warish
Yes, I agree this whole West vs. East situation sounds a little more Cold-Warish than I would like, and it’s about money which should worry us more. China, at the moment, is considered one of the biggest emerging markets in the world, and although it was previously closed off from the West, various trade agreements and the establishment in the 1980s of special economic zones (that opened up global trade and made doing business there more appealing for international firms) has alleviated these issues. China is also the world’s largest exporter of goods, the second largest importer of goods and has the fastest growing consumer market. China’s basically big money and everyone knows that, including China, and now they are using it as the ace up their sleeve.
What does this mean for European and American companies?
Well, like I said, at the moment the legislator is in draft form and is promised to work, within reason, with international companies to hopefully provide a mutual beneficial solution to this dilemma. At the moment, most European and U.S. tech companies are viewing the entire thing with apprehension.
Do you think this law will hurt China’s economy or Western companies more? Let me know in the comment section below.