A consumer protection group has sued Chinese search giant Baidu for allegedly infringing on the rights of its customers by tapping into their personal information through its smartphone apps.
The Jiangsu Consumer Council, based in the eastern-central coastal province, filed a lawsuit against New York-listed Baidu with the Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court.
The alleged breach came from two of Baidu’s apps, its browser and standalone search app, which can access the user’s text and multimedia messages, phone calls, contacts, locations and other data without their prior consent, and also modify the system settings of the user’s phone, the group said in a statement.
“Before users install such apps, the apps do not state that they include such functions, which obviously exceed the reasonable range for apps providing internet search service,” China Daily quoted the group as saying.
“Moreover, the apps do not clarify to users the way and the intention of getting such information, and the company shifted the responsibility to the smartphone operating systems,” it said.
The group said it filed the case after the search giant refused to make changes to its two apps even after it brought the matter to the company’s attention in July last year.
In an emailed response to Chinese technology news website TechNode, Baidu saod: “We explained in detail the scenarios under which we use authorization to access information … If the user does not give their authorization, Baidu cannot access the user’s information. Even after the authorization, users can turn off the corresponding function.”
Baidu also said it has been in contact with the group for some time, and has addressed their concerns.
Last week, Alibaba’s Ant Financial and Tencent’s WeChat also made headlines over their handling of user data.
Ant Financial has apologized for a checked-by-default option that allowed its credit scoring system, Sesame Credit in Alipay, to access user data.
WeChat, the popular messaging app which has around a billion users in China, also clarified that it does not store users’ conversations after Chinese businessman Li Shufu, chairman of Chinese automaker Geely Holding, recently said remarked that the firm “must be watching all our WeChats every day”.
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