Chinese tech companies forced to reveal their algorithms. This is an unprecedented gesture in the sector by Chinese law.
Important Chinese technology companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance (owner of TikTok) handed over details of their algorithms to the authorities, in an unprecedented gesture that is part of Beijing’s attempt to control the sector, the regulator announced.
Under a law passed in March, companies must ensure with the Chinese regulator that their algorithms fall within the regulatory framework.
“At the moment, the authorities have not explicitly asked companies to modify their algorithms,” said Angela Zhang, a specialist in Chinese law at the University of Hong Kong.
“The regulators, at the moment, are collecting information,” he added.
Separately, on Friday, China’s Cyberspace Administration for the first time published details of tech companies’ use of their algorithms.
The leader in online commerce, Alibaba , recommends, for example, new products based on users’ browsing and search history.
The short video app Douyin (TikTok’s version for the Chinese market) makes recommendations based on how long people spend on each piece of content.
Algorithms, the basis of the digital economy , are the engine of many Internet applications and services, which is why companies tend to keep them secret.
With these tools it is possible to analyze large amounts of data about a user and automate recommendations according to their practices or habits. Given this opacity, the authorities seek to better define the legislation of algorithms.
For two years, the Chinese authorities have been particularly intransigent with the sector of technology companies , which they monitor for practices, until then, widely extended. Several large companies were fined in this regard for abuses in terms of personal data protection, competition and user rights.
Last month, Didi, China’s leading chauffeur-driven vehicle (VTC) company, was fined $1.215 million for violating data protection rules.
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