On 7 November 2016 China adopted a new cybersecurity law aimed at dealing with rising issues such as hacking, ransomware, and terrorism. While China’s true intentions concerning the legislation may never be known, international businesses and rights groups have expressed concern over the new cybersecurity law.
The law, set to officially come into effect in June 2017, was effortlessly passed through China’s parliament since initially being discussed in 2015.
What Exactly Does This New Cybersecurity Law Mean?
The law gives the government the right to monitor all internet traffic in the country. Additionally, network operators are required to retain logs on customers and cooperate with the government during investigations. This is a chilling thought for anyone looking to do business in China.
The purposes of the law include:
“the need to scan for attempts to overthrow the communist system, divide the nation, advocate terrorism and extremism, as well as any violence or obscene content.”
The legislation gives the government the right to monitor the entire internet by the extremely vague wording of “security incidents.” The new law also introduces data privacy protections, although these are quite ironic as the government will have full control over user data.
While these reasons might sound noble at first (and even necessary for supporters of the government) skeptics are pointing to a poor track record concerning online censorship. Rights groups everywhere are sounding the alarms, with Human Rights Watch recently publishing a scathing report on the new law.
When it comes to online censorship, China is already notorious for the “Great Firewall of China.” This tool restricts Chinese residents from accessing websites such as Google, Facebook, and YouTube. With this new legislation, it seems that the GFW will become even more powerful!
A Warning for Us All…
The new Chinese cybersecurity law has undoubtedly turned a lot of heads in China and across the globe, especially among foreign internet companies. James Zimmerman, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, blasted the new law for being “vague, ambiguous, and subject to broad interpretation by regulatory authorities.” Tech giants like Google and Facebook remain blocked in China.
Of course, while big businesses and governments bicker over supposed espionage, the big loser will be the average Chinese citizen. Access to the outside world will be even more restricted than before. I don’t have to mention that censorship has been a huge problem since the communist party originally took control in 1949.
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has previously stated that China has a sovereign right to decide internet access for its citizens, including censorship. These statements might come as a surprise to those expecting a revamped China after reforms to the Chinese one-child policy and prison system.
While some have hoped for a more moderate China, internet access and consumer privacy have failed. I can imagine the NSA and FBI are drooling with jealousy at this point.
A Final Word
The new cybersecurity law further tightens the Chinese government’s grip on citizens’ everyday rights. Uncensored internet access has always been an issue in China and is only going to get worse with this new law going into effect. I would even argue that the communist government needs legislation such as this as a way of staying in power. The future still is unclear, but the developments do warrant an international outcry.
Regardless of where you might be, internet censorship and government surveillance is a tricky situation. With Russia also introducing similar legislation and the UK’s Snooper’s Charter going live soon, governmental intrusion into our privacy is an issue on a global level.
One of the ways to better protect yourself and help anonymize your online experience is through using a VPN. The Chinese government recently stated that VPNs are “terrorist software,” and are constantly attempting to block and ban VPNs. Even this doesn’t stop millions of Chinese and expats from using a VPN to circumvent censorship and increase online security.
A VPN does not guarantee complete security, but it is a practical way to protect yourself better online. For millions of Chinese citizens, a VPN might also be the only way to fight government censorship.
Care to share your thoughts on China’s new law, VPNs, or the general state of cybersecurity legislation? Leave your comments below!