China's Internet Society chapter has warned local internet app-makers to tone down their collection of personal information.
Last week, the society convened an expert panel with the country's Information and Communication Administration (part of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) to present the results of its analysis of apps popular in China.
What it found will be familiar to anybody who has watched apps in any country: 18 of the most popular apps the society tested collected excessive user information, and in nine cases, that seemed to be taking place without user consent.
Some of those swept up users' text message archives, their address books, location data, and recordings.
The Internet Society of China report (in Chinese) noted that the revelation led to "heated discussions and comments" between panel members. However, the panel was able to come to the consensus that even if there are still "irregularities", everybody is at least trying to behave better: "All relevant internet companies have made active efforts to strengthen the protection of users' personal information."
The society's deputy secretary-general, Song Maoen, said the organisation will put together further resources to help its members "carry out self-discipline work on personal information protection, in order to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of users".
Among the problematic apps were QQ Music and Kuwo Music, both part of the Tencent Music stable that in December raise over a billion dollars in an IPO, and the Baidu mobile assistant, which was collecting user information without permission.
The news comes hard on the heels of Privacy International raising fresh concerns about app malfeasance outside the Great Firewall.
The London-based privacy advocates said app developers were failing to manage their use of the Facebook SDK, and as a result, apps were frequently sending information sufficient to profile users back to Zuckerberg's ad farm – even if the individual wasn't a Facebook user.
It claimed 61 per cent of the apps it tested sent information to Facebook as soon as the app was opened, along with the user's Google advertising ID. The apps someone routinely uses, Privacy International pointed out, can be enough to create a broad profile of their lifestyle and interests.
Some apps went further, sending detailed information about how users interact with their apps to Facebook – like the Kayak travel booking app, which passed over users' search and bookings info.
Facebook told Privacy International that since June 2018 it had revised how the SDK's report-home defaults were configured. ®