Data security, compliance by ride-hailing firms stressed amid Didi’s woes

Ride-hailing companies have rushed to enhance data security following the lesson of Didi, as they seek to grab the huge market left by the temporary absence of Didi from app stores. Industry insiders said there will be a vacuum in the market for 30-40 days.

Meituan Dache, the ride-hailing app of China’s online food delivery giant Meituan, was re-launched on app stores starting on Friday, after the apps for Didi Chuxing were barred from registering new users and removed from app stores, right after its massive US IPO.

The Service Agreement and Privacy Policy of the re-launched Meituan Dache emphasizes user privacy, stating that the platform will not transfer users’ data to unauthorized third parties, and will not use the data for unauthorized purposes.

In June 2019, Meituan Dache, an integrated platform that accommodates other ride-hailing firms, was removed from app stores in order to control costs. It had been losing money since it was launched in February 2017, said Meituan. Its own ride-hailing function remained in the Meituan app.

It is crucial for app users to set boundaries when providing personal information to online ride-hailing apps, Qin An, head of the Beijing-based Institute of China Cyberspace Strategy, told the Global Times on Sunday, noting that users need to be aware of what information the apps truly need and only provide that information.

“Users can make complaints to the relevant authorities if they are unjustifiably blocked by apps for not providing additional information, and the apps will be severely punished,” said Qin.

Personal information and data generated from operations must be stored and used in the Chinese mainland for a period of not less than two years, according to rules for online ride-hailing platforms announced in December 2019 by the Ministry of Transport (MOT).

Except as otherwise stipulated by laws and regulations, such information and data shall not leave the country, read the rules.

Amid a regulatory tightening, also in focus is the compliance rates of the platforms, which track the proportion of orders filled by drivers and vehicles that both have gained operating approval from the MOT to the total number of ride-hailing orders, as China is now the world’s largest car-hailing market.

In June, 701.46 million orders were reported, a decline of 12.4 percent from the previous month, according to report published by the MOT on Saturday.

Only 39.5 percent of Didi Chuxing’s total orders were filled by drivers and cars that had gained permission, per the MOT.

The online ride-hailing compliance information inquiry service was officially launched on the MOT’s official WeChat account on March 19 this year. The service is being upgraded and can be used from Friday this week.

China accounted for 13.1 percent of global ride-hailing activity in 2020, with a market of 5.7 trillion yuan ($879.8 billion), and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 13.1 percent to reach 10.6 trillion yuan by 2025, according to a report by TF Securities.

Didi Chuxing’s app accounted for about 90 percent of active users in ride-hailing in October 2020, with 77.755 million active users, the report shows.

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