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China freezes new Tencent apps, updates for data privacy review

Tencent Holdings Ltd has been ordered to stop rolling out new apps, as China’s tech industry regulator reviews their compliance with new privacy laws introduced this month, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has also ordered a temporary halt to updates of existing apps, though current versions of products can still be downloaded and used, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information hasn’t been made public. Tencent, which owns the WeChat super-app and QQ messaging service, said in a statement that it’s working to enhance user protection features within its apps and regularly cooperates with relevant government agencies to ensure compliance.

China on Nov 1 began implementing a new Personal Information Protection Law that more tightly governs how tech companies handle user data, part of a broader effort by Beijing to rein in its Internet giants and wrest control over the vast reams of data they collect. Tencent has been targeted by the MIIT because nine of its products were found on four previous occasions to violate data protection rules, triggering the freeze, the people said.

The MIIT has ordered that all new apps and updates from Nov 24 until the end of the year will need to undergo a review by the regulator before they are made available, state broadcaster CCTV reported without saying where it obtained the information. The reviews are expected to take about seven days, according to the report.

Earlier this year, Tencent suspended new user registrations for WeChat, citing unspecified technical upgrades. That suspension lasted roughly a week before the Shenzhen-based tech firm resumed new sign-ups. – Bloomberg

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