Authoritarian Practices in the Digital Age| Asymmetrical Power Between Internet Giants and Users in China
We find that the asymmetry of power between the Internet giants and the users, prevalent in the digital era, is deeply problematic in China in that the two key players of big data—the Internet giants and the government—are interested in exploiting the potential of big data, but the regulation of the use and application of user data is an obstacle to their goal. The Internet giants do not value the provision of transparent privacy policies and the enforcement of the policies, while the government, being an investor in and consumer of big data services, is neither interested in nor technologically capable of regulating big data technology. Moreover, there is no unified Internet governance system to solicit cooperation within the government to regulate Internet privacy. These contextual characteristics facilitate the building of the social credit system that pays limited attention to user privacy. The findings suggest that in the discussion about the political consequences of ICT development in China, we should focus on the Internet giants and their unchecked technological power instead of only the government.