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Jia, Lianrui
Ruan, Lotus
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[Journal:] Internet Policy Review [ISSN:] 2197-6775 [Volume:] 9 [Year:] 2020 [Issue:] 3 [Pages:] 1-22
We examine and compare data and privacy governance by four China-based mobile applications and their international versions: Baidu, Toutiao and its international version TopBuzz, Douyin and its international version TikTok, and WeChat. Together, these four applications represent popular Chinese apps branching into diverse overseas markets such as Europe, Brazil, North America, and Southeast Asia. We first present an overview of the ownership, functions, business models and strategies of the reviewed apps. To study the app's interface design, we employ the walkthrough method to examine privacy features during the account registration and deletion stages in app usage. Lastly, we conducted content analysis of the terms of service and privacy policies to establish the app's data collection, storage, transfer, use, and disclosure measures. Our analysis showed variations across apps and within the Chinese and international-facing versions in their data and privacy governance in app design and policies. Baidu has the most unsatisfactory data and privacy protection measures, while ByteDance's TikTok/Douyin and TopBuzz/Toutiao offer more comprehensive user protection from different jurisdictions. Moreover, this paper highlights the role of platform owners (e.g., Google and Apple) in gatekeeping mobile app privacy standards and the role of the state in imposing a data protection framework on overseas versions of China-based mobile apps.
Data protection
Mobile apps
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