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China’s citizens do care about their data privacy, actually

March 28, 2018

Baidu’s CEO, Robin Li, is under fire for claiming that people in China don’t much care about what’s done with their personal data.

The news: “I think Chinese people are more open, or are not that sensitive about privacy. If they 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,” said Li, pictured, earlier this week.

But: The idea that Chinese people don’t care about privacy is something of a myth. Li’s comments sparked outcry on Chinese social media. Data from the Internet Society of China says 54 percent of the nation’s internet users think issues involving personal data breaches are “severe.” And Baidu has been sued recently over allegations of spying on its users.

A global issue: It’s tempting to assume that things like Facebook’s data scandal would be an accepted norm in China. But actually, many people in the country have been watching the social network’s saga unfold with curiosity—because they, too, are interested in how data is secured and shared.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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