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The IP local display function makes the network space clearer

via:新浪科技     time:2022/5/11 8:06:24     readed:230


□ Zuo Xiaodong

Recently, mainstream online platforms such as Sina Weibo and WeChat have launched new features to display the IP territory of the speaker. On the one hand, many overseas "network troops" posing as domestic users to mislead public opinion have appeared, and the masses have clapped their hands and applauded; on the other hand, some users are worried that this move will leak personal information and question the necessity and legitimacy of this measure.

In fact, it is no accident that major online platforms have launched this initiative. In October 2021, the Cyberspace Administration of China issued the Provisions on the Administration of Internet User Account Name Information (Draft for Solicitation of Comments) (hereinafter referred to as the Administrative Provisions), article 12 of which stipulates that the Internet user account service platform shall display the territorial information of the account IP address on the Internet user account information page in a conspicuous manner. The territorial information of the IP address of the domestic Internet user account should be marked to the province (autonomous region, city), and the territorial information of the IP address of the overseas account should be marked to the country (region). This provision is mainly to help the public identify false information, so that swaggers and fraudsters have nothing to hide in front of the public, and to make cyberspace clearer. Although the Administrative Provisions have not yet been implemented and do not yet have legal effect, in view of the importance of the user IP territorial display function for clear cyberspace, under the premise of judging the policy trend, the platform pilot launch this function is to prepare for the possible implementation of the policy in the future.

Some people questioned that before the policy document was released and implemented, the platform forcibly displayed the user's IP territory, violating the provisions of the Personal Information Protection Law on obtaining user consent and not giving users the right to choose. Indeed, according to the law, the consent of the individual (without regard to exceptions) should be obtained for the processing of both required and non-essential personal information, and if the user does not agree to the processing, it must not be processed. If it is personal information necessary to complete the service, if the user does not agree to provide it, the platform may refuse the service (that is, if the IP territory is required information, the platform may refuse to use the service when the user does not agree to display the IP territory); but if it is not required personal information, the platform shall still provide services and shall not reduce the quality of service.

From a functional point of view, the IP territory is not displayed, and the platform provides services that are not affected, as if it is not required information. However, considering the current proliferation of false information on the Internet, the platform has the needs and responsibilities to safeguard the public interest and implement risk control. At this time, it can be considered that in order to provide services to users, the platform must display the IP territory for legitimate reasons, that is, to determine that the IP territory is "required information". In this case, if the user refuses to provide services to the user because he or she does not agree, it is in accordance with the legal requirements.

Some people also pointed out that even if the Administrative Provisions are promulgated and implemented, they are still departmental regulations, and they are not "other circumstances stipulated by laws and administrative regulations" proposed in Item 7 of the first paragraph of Article 13 of the Personal Information Protection Law, so it is necessary to obtain the consent of users when displaying the territory of IP, which ignores the exception conditions proposed in Paragraph 3 of the Article "necessary for the performance of statutory duties or statutory obligations". It is true that the Administrative Provisions are not "laws and administrative regulations", but once they are promulgated and implemented, the requirements they put forward also belong to the "statutory duties or statutory obligations" that the platform should perform. Therefore, even if the platform does not agree with the user on the display of IP territory in the contract, the platform can force the display of IP territory without obtaining the user's consent. Moreover, at present, this user IP territorial display method has considered the problem of "degree", and strives to protect the rights and interests of users as much as possible while maintaining the public interest, which is also the solution with the least impact on user rights and interests among all feasible solutions.

It should also be noted that the "location" displayed by the IP territory is not the same thing as the "location" information called when we use the mobile phone every day, and the principles of the two are different. The former is the IP address assigned when accessing the Internet, the Internet communication protocol determines that the information receiver must know this IP address, so it can know the territory through the IP address, this process does not require the user to authorize and open the sensitive permissions of the mobile phone; the latter relies on GPS positioning or base station positioning, which is a sensitive permission, and the permission needs to be obtained by the user.

Of course, with the introduction of the user's IP territory display function, services such as "changing IP address" and "IP proxy" have gradually become popular, which has also triggered questions about the effectiveness of displaying IP territory. Since it is not illegal to access the Internet through proxy services, it does have the effect of hiding the real address, which also brings uncertainty to whether the Administrative Provisions can eventually be promulgated, which also requires the attention of relevant departments and relevant platforms.

(The author is a professor at the School of Public Affairs, University of Science and Technology of China)

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