China Moves To Regulate App Stores

The Cyberspace Administration of China says that app stores will now be officially regulated. In a notice posted to its website, the Cyberspace Administration announced mobile app stores will now required to register with its offices. The government says that this new measure will make the stores both safer and more profitable.

App stores will be made to officially register with the government starting on Monday. The listing says that app store owners will have to register if they’re setting up a storefront, if they make changes, or if they shut down. The new rules are designed to protect consumers from fraudulent apps, including those that deliberately steal or defraud users, as well as restricting apps that offer stolen or pirated content.

New regulations for app developers were announced last July. App developers are now required to establish the identity of users with real-name registration, seek user consent before collecting personal information and location data, and monitor and report banned content. They must also keep a record of user activity for 60 days.

The government now will have records that it can wield when it wants to target apps or whole stores. Stores that frequently permit frauds and viruses could find themselves in hot water pretty quickly. Locals might have to work harder to get those titles the government censors don’t want them to see.

The Chinese government has always had a hand in how app stores are managed in the country. In 2016, China passed a law that prevented apps from actions that would threaten national security, disrupt the social status quo, or promote other illegal activities. Apple and Alibaba run their own app stores, both with strict rules and guidelines for developers. Apple pulled the New York Times app from its store earlier this month and shut its iTunes Movies and iBooks services last year to comply with Chinese regulations.

The Google Play Store is banned in the country, even though about 75 percent of the 550 million smartphones used in China run on the Android operating system. Because of this, there are numerous third-party Android stores used by Chinese consumers. Many companies have built app stores to fill the gap for Android users, including Baidu and Tencent. However, many of the alternative stores do not have strong oversight.

The Cyberspace Administration’s notice claimed that app stores aren’t being managed properly Apps often incorporate a wide variety of functions and allow users to exchange information within the platform, making them difficult to oversee. Some believe it would be impossible for the regulators to register and supervise the millions of apps available to Chinese consumers, which is why they are focusing on the stores.