Infringement of consumers' rights in media spotlight

2021-03-17 12:08:15

A screenshot shows the resumes of job seekers on online platforms offering recruitment services. [Photo/Screenshot from CCTV] Commercial practices infringing on consumers' personal information, privacy and security became a hot topic of discussion across China on Tuesday after a number of such instances were exposed in a special television program on China Central Television. During the program, broadcast on Monday night to mark World Consumer Rights Day, a number of companies were named and their wrongful acts were exposed, such as improperly and illegally collecting or using personal information. For example, many stores of leading bathroom brand Kohler were found to have installed cameras to gather the facial information of consumers without their permission. Some accounts of employers on Zhaopin, an online platform offering recruitment services, could access a large number of the resumes of job seekers if they became members of the platform. The revelations quickly went viral on Chinese social media. A hashtag relating to the CCTV program on Sina Weibo, the country's Twitter-like service, had 5.35 billion views by 7pm Tuesday. Some companies named in the program quickly apologized to the public for their misconduct, saying that they will make efforts to protect users' personal information and resolve their problems. On Tuesday, Kohler said in a statement on its official micro blog that it had ordered the stores involved to remove the cameras and asked its suppliers to cooperate with supervision by government agencies. It said the cameras were installed to calculate how many consumers had visited the stores and the information collected by the devices was not stored, analyzed or transferred. Zhaopin said on its micro blog that it attaches importance to any leaks of information, and said it had established a special team to investigate the problem. It said that it had developed software in January to blur job seekers' real phone numbers to ensure their information security and the practice will be extended to all users on the platform within 24 hours. Additionally, Zhaopin said it had reached an agreement with some other online recruitment platforms to jointly curb behavior that could harm consumers' rights and create a safe environment for job seekers. Protection of personal information and privacy has been a heated topic of public discussion in China in recent years. Last year, a draft law on personal information protection was submitted to the country's top legislature for first review, while several apps engaging in illegal behavior with regard to information collection had been closed or rectified their behavior as a result of campaigns by a number of government departments. Zhao Zhanling, a lawyer at Yunjia Law Firm in Beijing, said given the current situation, the country's efforts to protect personal information and privacy, especially in the internet and technology industry, must be further enhanced. "The exposure of such misconduct means the problem of leaking, abusing or improperly collecting personal information remains serious, even though we've taken some administrative and legal measures," he said. Zhao said some campaigns launched by the authorities-including those on cyberspace governance and public security-to improve the protection of internet users' personal information are expected to be further expanded in the wake of Monday's program on CCTV. "If some exposed companies don't rectify their misconduct in a timely manner or continue to engage in seriously illegal behavior in terms of information collection, leakage or collection during the upcoming supervision and campaigns, they may be held criminally liable," he added.