This article was published under a Creative Commons license: Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY).


This article focuses on market-driven collection of personal data and its regulation in China. It argues that there is a growing demand for personal data from China’s advertising, marketing, and credit reporting businesses. Meanwhile, the rapid development of the Internet, notably social media and e-commerce, has generated very large pools of personal data on digital platforms. These two factors contribute to the fast growth of both legitimate and illegitimate collection and exploitation of personal information. Chinese laws and regulations lag behind the market and are not ready to regulate personal data as a key economic resource. They scatter in a wide array of economic and social sectors and lack a coherent structure and effective enforcement mechanism. Unspecified overarching rationale, ambivalent market regulation, inadequate enforcement, as well as safety risks of governmental databases are problems that hinder the protection of personal data in China. The role and implications of the new Internet Security Law, entering into force in June 2017, remain to be seen.



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