China consumer group accuses Baidu of snooping on users of its smartphone apps
A consumer protection group in China’s Jiangsu province has sued Baidu for infringing on the rights of consumers, accusing the Beijing-based internet company of gaining access to user information without consent.
Baidu Inc., the operator of China’s largest online search engine, has been accused by a Chinese consumer rights protection group of collecting personal information without obtaining users’ permission, the latest instance of the country’s tech giants facing scrutiny over the way they handle personal data.
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Baidu said it was aware of the litigation and had conducted multiple rounds of talks with the group over the past several months to explain and address its concerns.
“During the communication with the Jiangsu Provincial Consumer Protection Committee, we explained in detail the scenarios under which we use authorisation to access information – for instance, relevant Baidu applications’ access to geographic location, text messages and address books are within the scope of reasonable use,” Baidu said in a statement.
The company added that its mobile app does not have the capability of monitoring phone calls and will never ask for the authorisation. Baidu will continue to communicate with the consumer group and work with them to ensure the security of personal information on the internet and in other industries, it said.
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The lawsuit makes Baidu the latest among China’s top three internet giants to come under public scrutiny amid rising consumer concerns over data privacy in the country.
Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding, the two largest Chinese technology companies by market value, had to clarify to the public how they handled their information after they came under fire for the way they handle or gain users’ data.