Privacy getting an upgrade in China?

Microsoft is alleged to have violated a Chinese university student's privacy. Maybe this means that China increasingly cares about privacy?

As notedon Slashdot, and as reported by Xinhua,

A Beijing university student is suing Microsoft for infringing upon his privacy, demanding 1,350 yuan (180 U.S. dollars) in compensation and an apology printed in a national newspaper.

Peking University student Lu Feng said he installed Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage software according to prompts from the Windows XP operating system on his laptop only to find the program enabled Microsoft to gather information about his computer and himself, rather than solely checking whether or not the installed Windows XP system was genuine.

I suspect that the truth is somewhere in the middle, but I admit that I'm surprised that the claim being raised is related to privacy. As The Economist has reported, privacy is not China's top concern, though this is changing:

It is surely telling that the characters that make up yinsi, the Chinese word for privacy, carry the connotations of illicit secrets and selfish, conspiratorial behaviour. The notion of privacy has not traditionally been valued in China, and proof of that is on display everywhere. The country's public lavatories are often open-plan affairs where locals unabashedly squat elbow-to-elbow as they tend to their business. In hospitals, modesty is often thrown to the wind as treatments are carried out in full view of milling crowds. In the most casual of social interactions, complete strangers think nothing of asking each other details - about their salary, weight and so on - that most westerners would not share even with close friends.

Perhaps this lawsuit is actually a sign of change?

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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