28th January 2018 is Data Protection Day, an occasion to take a closer look at recent developments in China that will have an impact on companies, especially small ones.

Data are the raw material of the 21st century. Anyone who can analyse them, identify trends and make predictions will hold the holy grail in their hands. That's why the interest in data is so great. It is mainly economically motivated (as we already pointed out in the article on the same topic last year). The fight for digital data is increasingly being fought by governments. The interest in accessing personal information and blocking access to information is demonstrated by recent media reports on the blocking of Virtual Private Networks in China. This will have a big impact on companies doing business there. As a small company, how do you make sure to protect your company data?

The dragon seeks "Cyber Sovereignty"

Foreign companies and their employees are leaving China while its citizens are exposed to surveillance by the state. The Chinese government refers to its internet politics as “cyber sovereignty”. According to the political leadership the internet should be safe for everyone. After all, only internet platforms and online services respecting the ideology of the Chinese state are desired and allowed. Neither does the online presence of the Wall Street Journal and that of the New York Times belong to that category, nor do the social network Facebook, the text messaging service Twitter or the video platform YouTube. The search engine Google has not been accessible in the country since 2010.

Thicker air and thinner broadband for entrepreneurs

And it will get even tighter on 1st February of this year when unlicensed VPN Accesses will be forbidden. Especially, companies using VPNs to access the free internet – a means denied to the average Chinese citizen for many years, will soon be denied to the entire country. For a ”clean digital sphere“ the Chinese government is likely to switch off all VPN lines by March 2018. Operators of critical infrastructures such as energy suppliers or transport companies will have to use software approved by the state. Above all, the government demands that foreign companies store their enterprise data on servers in China to give Chinese authorities access. What is to be done when the price of keeping your enterprise data secret is getting too expensive?

In the net of the data spider

International corporations may transfer their employees from the Chinese smog plagued big cities to cleaner locations in the US or in Europe. But the small and medium sized companies will need to conform with the rules of the Chinese State. Encryption software can be an adequate means of protecting a company’s sensitive information. Cryptshare has the potential to address this situation given that it allows the exchange of emails and files via a secured connection.

China is just one example from which one can see how great the interest in controlling data by governments is. It can be assumed that government influence on the collection, evaluation and control of digital data will continue to increase in the future.