Will Alibaba’s App Information Leakage Trigger Strict Supervision and Regulation on Mobile Games?

alibaba(By You Yunting) “疯狂来往” App, an in-game of China’s leading e-commerce Alibaba(NYSE: BABA)’s Messaging App Laiwang, was blamed for user’s private data leakage, according to the news. “疯狂来往” App (pronounced as “Feng Kuang Lai Wang”) was made to record players as one persons holds up a mobile device displaying words and others use gestures to provide clues to an answer, a little like guessing game. Considering that “疯狂来往”App is an interactive game among friends and acquaintances, many of the players were dressed rather casually when caught on the videos and some videos shows users in their underwear or naked while playing the game at home with family or friends. Worsen the videos also involved private information of teenagers under eighteen. Regardless of its sharing features into social networking websites such as Wechat and Qzone, some sharing videos were also automatically stored on Youku.com, a video website, which anyone can read online.

After exposure, the videos have since been deleted by Youku.com. However, the videos may be up to 35959 sharing in Youku.com without permission, which included a tremendous amount of private data and even involved sensitive questions about teenagers and women. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that the entire mobile game industry will be fully regulated and under strict supervision.

I. Legal Risks on Data Regulation

Specifically, “疯狂来往”App may have the following questions in the collection and use of personal information:

(1). On legitimacy of game’s sharing setting

Even if a game may involve personal information, should the game be intended to provide sharing settings for users? Pursuant to the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Strengthening Information Protection on Networks, network service providers shall, in the collection and use of electronic personal information of citizens in business activities, adhere to the principles of legality, rationality and necessarily. However, successor as it is, Alibaba took less consideration on the legitimacy of the sharing settings in the “疯狂来往”App. If a carefully thought on usage scenarios, of which users may lack their privacy, was not taken into account prior to setting sharing features, it is likely to exist legitimate defects in the “疯狂来往”App.

(2). On private videos sharing beyond authorization

Under the condition that the user authorized “疯狂来往”App to share their personal information through social networking sites such as Wechat and Qzone, why did the personal information exist in the public video website Youku.com? Pursuant to the Provisions on Protecting the Personal Information of Telecommunications and Internet Users, the internet company should, without user’s consent, not collect and use user’s personal information, and shall use a specific, clear and reasonable approach to inform users of the purpose, the scope and methods of the collection and use. Furthermore, Internet enterprises should neither induce, force or cheat users, nor violate laws, regulations or agreements upon by both parties so as to collect and use the personal information. In the collection and use of personal information, “疯狂来往”App just informed users of sharing videos on social networking sites, not video website Youku.com, thus accusing of using personal information through inducing and cheating users.

 (3) Absence of privacy risk disclosure

Should the game be designed to present privacy disclosure at setting sharing feature? As “疯狂来往”App is likely to accuse of private information, Alibaba shall inform users of sharing risks and otherwise be at the risk of violating laws. The Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests also regulates that no organizations and individuals may violate the laws or administrative regulations in the collection and use of user’s personal data. Furthermore, the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests states that women’s right of reputation and personal dignity shall be protected by law. The Law on the Protection of Minors regulates that no organization or individual may disclose the personal secrets of minors.

Currently, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (the “MIIT”), the principal government regulator for personal data, are responsible for an annual inspection and an important license for value-added telecommunication services (the “ICP license”). It cannot rule out the possibility, as a result of “疯狂来往” App personal information leakage, that the MIIT may enhance the regulations and supervision on value-added telecommunication service provider’s protection for user’s personal information.

II. Supervision Risk upon Mobile Games

Supervision on Domestic internet mobile game are taken charged by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (the “SAPPRFT”) and the Ministry of Culture (the “MOC”), according to the “3 Claim” Plan of the State Council. The SAPPRFT is responsible for the approval of game publication while the MOC is the department in charge of game operation. However, domestic mobile game is supervised with a period of relative ease, and the MOC changed its power of homebred mobile game approval into the network service provider. Furthermore, mobile game enterprises with the ICP license shall establish the content examination system and make a prior examination upon the upcoming game, so as to confirm the cultural products and service of legitimacy. A SAPPRFT’s official also expressed to simplify administration and transfer power of mobile game management and supervision to a lower level a few months ago on the chinajoy.

Still, this privacy leakage will probably increase risks of strict supervision in the whole mobile game industry for following two reasons. Firstly, the government system actually is the internal motivation for strict supervision, and some big events happened in every industry will become a pretense for governmental power expansion. For example, the internet café “Lanjisu” which went up in a blaze killing 24 adolescents in 2002 led to closing up thousands of Internet bars and regulate the whole industry, thus making the Internet bar license more expensive than a Mercedes-Benz car.

Secondly, both the MIIT and the MOC have been scrambled for the leader power in the industry supervision. For example, in 2009, both administrations had a public debates about whether the renewal of the World of Warcraft needed, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game created in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment, to re-apply for game operation approval. Although there is no public power contradiction in recent years between the two administrations, the supervision and regulations of two administrations may indicate which one is stricter than the other, triggering effects in this privacy leakage. If one administration enhances its supervision and the other does not follow up, it will be irresponsible for the other. Afterwards, the other will enhance a much stricter than the one administration in competition, and that circle repeats, thus leading to the strictest supervision in the mobile game industry.

In closing, mobile game industry is just like a big cake with less governmental regulation and supervision. However, actually legal risk is no greater than that of other industries. Therefore, game enterprises shall adhere to the laws and regulations in dividing the cake, otherwise being risky.

Lawyer Contacts

You Yunting86-21-52134918  youyunting@debund.com/yytbest@gmail.com

Disclaimer of Bridge IP Law Commentary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *