Date
15 November 2018
Baidu co-founder and chief executive Robin Li said Chinese are still relatively more open to and less sensitive about the use of personal data than people in other countries. Photo: Reuters
Baidu co-founder and chief executive Robin Li said Chinese are still relatively more open to and less sensitive about the use of personal data than people in other countries. Photo: Reuters

Chinese willing to lose privacy for convenience, says Baidu CEO

Amid the global furor over the Facebook data scandal, Baidu co-founder and chief executive Robin Li believes the Chinese are relatively easy-going when it comes to the privacy issue.

“If they [Chinese] are able to exchange privacy for safety, convenience or efficiency, in many cases, they are willing to do that, then we can make more use of that data,” Li said at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Monday.

When asked about his views on the use of personal data for legitimate purposessuch as healthcare reform and innovation, Li said China has become increasingly aware of the privacy issue over the past few years, according to a video clip of the forum posted by local financial media outlet Caixin on its Weibo account.

Yet, he said Chinese are still relatively more open to and less sensitive about the use of personal data than people in other countries.

“Data that can be founded on the internet only accounts for 20 percent of the total, and 80 percent of the data is in the hands of enterprises. If we can put more data together, the ability we can achieve will increase exponentially,” the internet mogul said.

Baidu is “very aware of the privacy issue” and will follow a series of principles that “make the use of data beneficial to data owners and make them willing to grant the right to use it,” Chinese media platform Yicai quoted Li as saying.

He stressed that businesses must first get the consent of users before using their personal data.

Amid the Chinese government’s backing for the development of artificial intelligence, and the enormous quantities of data produced by the country’s vast population, Baidu is moving fast in autonomous driving technology.

“We are expecting that in three to five years, driverless vehicles can be driven on regular roads,” Li said.

His comments about the privacy issue have gone viral on social media and drawn much controversy.

Chinese state media CGTN said: “The overwhelming majority of comments on Sina Weibo regarding Li’s comments were negative, with one top-rated comment calling the Baidu CEO ‘shameless and despicable’.”

Li is not the only tech entrepreneur who has spoken candidly about the Chinese attitude towards data privacy.

Last week, Tao Dong, president of Credit Suisse in the Greater China region, told CNBC that China will “win the AI race” because “China has no serious law protecting data privacy”.

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BN/CG

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