Date
22 April 2018
Mainland netizens are usually aware that their online activities are constantly being watched by the authorities. Photo: China Daily
Mainland netizens are usually aware that their online activities are constantly being watched by the authorities. Photo: China Daily

Trading privacy for convenience

The US federal government is proposing to require most immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants to list all social media identities they have used in the past five years. The proposal, if approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will affect about 14.7 million people annually. The planned change will undergo a 60-day public consultation.

If implemented, all visa applicants need to provide information covering 20 mainstream social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Weibo and WeChat.

Also, they are required to submit five years of previously used telephone numbers and email addresses.

Certainly, applicants have the right to refuse to disclose such information. But their visa application may be rejected for national security reasons. That means you have to trade your personal privacy for securing a visa.

The US government has to go through proper legislative procedures in order to collect data from citizens or foreigners. The process is relatively transparent and netizens are informed what information will be collected under what circumstances.

By contrast, in China, personal privacy has been largely breached without any legislation or public consultation.

China’s security departments have been collecting private data, and Chinese netizens are used to such breaches.

No wonder, Li Yanhong, CEO of Chinese internet services giant Baidu Inc., said many Chinese users are willing to trade privacy for convenience.

Although his remarks have stirred up public outcry, his comments make sense because real privacy simply does not exist in China.

In today’s world, netizens should expect every word they post online and every website they’ve browsed will leave a record. As such, they should pay close attention to what they say and do online.

The full article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 4

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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