State algorithms", in China big tech no longer have secrets

After the March law that requires large digital companies to unveil the mechanisms they use to engage consumers, the Cyberspace Administration of China publishes the first document on the results of the investigation

16 Aug 2022

A. S.

The law that forced Chinese tech giants to disclose their algorithms to the government dates back to March, and since then the Beijing authority that oversees the world of the Web, the Cyberspace Administration Of China, has studied the information received from Alibaba & Co. and late last week published the first document explaining for what purposes algorithms are used depending on the cases and sectors in which companies are used. under scrutiny operate.

The Beijing government has targeted companies such as Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance, which have thus been forced to make their "technological heart" transparent,  that is,  the methods they use to manage online services and applications. To motivate this activity of the regular there is officially the desire to prevent companies from using unfair practices towards consumers or violate their right to privacy. The request to make public the mechanisms of operation of the algorithms is in fact propaedeutic, according to the intentions of the standard, to a verification of the compliance of these technologies and their technical details with national laws.

In the document published by the authority it is explained, for example, that Alibaba uses algorithms to recommend new products to users based on their browsing history and their online searches, while the app for short videos Douyin, a sort of Chinese version of TikTok, provides thanks to these technologies suggestions based on the time spent by users on the contents of the platform.

"At this stage, the authorities have not yet explicitly asked companies to modify their algorithms – says Angela Zhang, a specialist in Chinese law at the University of Hong Kong – regulators are still in the information collection phase".

According to the principles of the law that came into force in March, individual users will be able to choose not to be "tracked", denying permission to have their data analyzed by algorithms, while the Beijing government now seems to be directed towards the creation of a "public register" of algorithms.