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China wants US tech firms to sign a 'pledge of compliance'
Operating a business in numerous countries can be like trying to navigate a minefield of legal clauses and regulatory paperwork, and China is looking to impose another policy on US technology companies: a pledge of compliance to protect security and user data.
The head of China’s Cyberspace Administration, Lu Wei, is to hold a summit with a number of US technology companies in Seattle, where he is expected to press companies operating in China to sign off on a new security pledge.
According to the document, companies will promise not to harm China’s national security and to store all Chinese user data within the country. These are similar conditions to the NSA’s PRISM agreement. Furthermore, companies would not be allowed to move user data to other sites without the express permission of the user or approval from authorities. Much of the pledge’s contents are also directed at preserving user privacy and data security, stating that companies should respect the user’s rights to knowledge, control and choice regarding their data.
However, there are some more sinister sounding terms included too. Systems must be deemed “secure and controllable” to operate within China. Companies must also make their data and products open to state and third party supervision to prove compliance, so there will be some level of state oversight and/or possible a “backdoor” option to gain access to encrypted data stored within the country, as some industry sources have suggested. Some are also concerned that the ambiguous supervision could leave US industry secrets and intellectual property open to theft or exploitation.
On balance, the pledge isn’t actually too different from many of the requirements imposed on foreign companies in many countries, including the UK and the US. However, tensions between the US and China regarding data privacy, industrial secrets and hacking allegations certainly makes the situation rather heated. If you want, you can read the pledge here. It’s actually rather short.