Here's something communism is good at: Making smartphones less annoying
Beijing cracks down on undeletable pre-installed bloatware and dodgy apps
This week the kings of the Middle Kingdom issued directives to address some of the biggest annoyances associated with smartphones applications: copycat apps and bloatware.
On Monday the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) launched a campaign it said would "rectify chaos" in smartphone apps by cracking down on several behaviors such as publication of "copycat apps" that use logos, pictures or text similar to existing apps to deceive users and potentially collect personal data and app subscription fees.
The CAC also also plans to rectify dodgy ranking practices, and apps that lure people in with sexually suggestive or vulgar home pages. Apps distributed by QR code, rather than through app stores, are also in trouble.
But wait, there's more! CAC will prevent auto downloads or installations without user consent. Apps that misrepresent their function or content are in the firing line as well.
As are apps that tempt users with promises of making money.
Excessive pop-ups, functions that serve as an obstacle to removing apps or forced renewals, and fake free trials are all on their way out.
In the usual style of the CAC, the regulator did not specify how it would accomplish its goals, instead using phrases like "severely punish," "strictly regulate," and "crack down."
Given the Authoritarian nature of the regime, though, these terms should be taken pretty much at face value.
- China bans deepfakes created without permission or for evil
- China's internet regulator details algorithms used by local Big Tech players
- Chinese scammers target kids with promise of extra gaming hours
- China tells big tech to reveal some customers' income
Beijing has also decided to tackle pre-installed undeletable bloatware.
On Wednesday, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), in conjunction with the CAC, said it would take action to regulate pre-installed apps on smartphones, requiring them to be "user first" and of "minimum necessity," as to "respect and protect users' right to know and choose."
Which, to be honest, doesn't sound all that Communist.
The rules require manufacturers to ensure that pre-installed software can be deleted – other than the Phone app, an app that drives voice and video recording, a TXT program, contact lists, browsers, and app stores.
"Violations of this notice shall be dealt with in accordance with relevant laws and regulations," states the notice.
Sadly, the regulations probably don't apply to designed-in-China phones distributed outside the Middle Kingdom. But at least behind the Great Firewall, netizens splashing out on new phones will have less bloatware to deal with, and fewer reasons to worry that apps aren't what they seem.
So how bad could Communism be, really?®