Online home-sharing firm Airbnb will begin disclosing information about hosts to Chinese authorities today. In an email to its Chinese hosts, the US-based company said the move was in line with the country’s stringent data and disclosure regulations; Beijing introduced sweeping new cyber security powers for authorities last June.
While Airbnb’s business faces limited risk from sharing its host data with authorities—and the firm’s Chinese operations would face catastrophe if it refused—today’s actions are one part of an emerging dispute between the West and Beijing. That dispute centres on sections of last year’s cyber security legislation mandating that foreign firms must store data about Chinese individuals and operations on Chinese servers. Just last month, Apple was forced to do just this with iCloud data, while other firms have thus refused to enter the Chinese market.
The issue for political and business leaders in the West is less about Chinese authorities spying on their own citizens, as they already have extensive powers to do this, and more about the theft of trade secrets. Such alleged “systematic” data theft was the target of tariffs on certain Chinese goods announced last week by US President Donald Trump.
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Simon is the founder of Foreign Brief who served as managing director from 2015 to 2021. A lawyer by training, Simon has worked as an analyst and adviser in the private sector and government. Simon’s desire to help clients understand global developments in a contextualised way underpinned the establishment of Foreign Brief. This aspiration remains the organisation’s driving principle.