Three government authorities in the People’s Republic of China recently jointly issued a new regulation requiring companies to identify and provide copies of IDs to the Public Security Bureau (police) of any of the company employees using a specific number of a mobile phone device provided by and registered under the name of the company. The full name of the regulation is the Notice from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Public Security, and State Administration of Industry and Commerce for Issuing Work Plan for Special Corrective Action Against Cellphone “Black Simcard” 2015. The stated purpose is to reduce and curb illegal activities conducted by individuals using devices with simcards which are not registered with the state mobile telecommunications providers.
This requirement comes against a backdrop of increasing fraud and related criminal activities in mainland China and increasing difficulties in tracking down perpetrators who use unregistered simcards. On a corporate level, however, it is common for employers to issue staff with mobile devices for work purposes and for these devices to be registered under the company name rather than the name of the individual. The new regulation does not provide any guidance on data privacy aspects.
Existing legislation allows employers to collect and use personal information of staff for the purposes of administering the employment relationship. However, there is no express authority allowing or restriction preventing employers providing employee information to the police in order to comply with the new regulation. It is not clear how strictly the new regulation will be enforced, but technically companies may be reprimanded and fined for failure to comply.
TIP: Given the increasing (albeit still fragmented) regulation of data privacy in China over the last two years or so, especially in the e-commerce and the consumer space, employers in China should consider notifying relevant employees of the new legal requirement and obtaining their consent before providing the required information to the police.