On Thursday, Jul 21, the Chinese internet watchdog fined ride-hailing giant Didi nearly 1.2 billion dollars for 16 violations of China’s Cybersecurity Law, Data Protection Law, and Personal Information Protection Law. 

The firm had illegally collected 107 million instances of passengers’ facial recognition information and analyzed 53.976 billion sets of passenger travel intention information. Didi excessively collected screenshot information in users’ mobile phone albums, clipboard information, and mobile application list. 

The Cyberspace Administration of China (GAC) accused the company of violations that were severe and brought “serious risks to national cyberspace security and data security.”

The fine is certain but the amount is shocking. According to Globaltimes, the fine accounts for approximately 5 percent of Didi’s $23.7 billion  in domestic business revenues in 2021, compared with the fine previously imposed on e-commerce titan Alibaba Group and delivery giant Meituan, which stood at $2.75 billion and $527 million respectively. The $2.75 billion was about 4 percent of Alibaba’s domestic revenue in 2019, while $527 million was roughly 3 percent of Meituan’s domestic business revenue in 2020.

The penalties on Didi CEO Cheng Wei and President Liu Qing are at the cap of 1 million yuan. This amount is still smaller than the fine calculation of 10 times the illegal income, plus forfeiture of such illegal income which was stated in provisions of the Cybersecurity Law and Data Security Law.

Didi said it fully accepted the regulator’s decision. Didi’s future could have been worse if the regulator suspends its domestic business, revoke its license, or even seek criminal prosecution.

It announced on Thursday, Jul 21, “We will treat this as a warning, and insist on paying equal attention to operational security and corporate development, strengthening the construction of networks and data security, as well as ramping up protection of personal information.” 

Travis Lundy, the analyst at Quiddity Advisors, said, “The fine should mark the end of Didi’s regulatory troubles.” However, it is not clear whether the giant tech can start to restore their apps and onboard new users.

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