China’s internet watchdog Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) launched a cybersecurity investigation into China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), the country’s largest online academic database, to safeguard national data security and public interest, as reported by South China Morning Post on June 24. The CAC declared that the privately owned CNKI holds a huge amount of personal information and important data in national defense, telecommunication, transport, national resources, finance, and other sectors of concern. In addition, CNKI also has sensitive information related to China’s major projects, significant technological achievements, and the development of core technologies, according to the CAC.
The cybersecurity investigation marks Chinese regulators’ closer scrutiny of CNKI, a database that covers more than 90% of the published journals in the Chinese mainland. Earlier in May, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) launched an antitrust probe into CNKI, as the database has long been accused of abusing its monopoly power over access to published academic papers by charging unreasonable subscription fees. The cybersecurity inquiry on CNKI also reflects CAC’s expanded oversight after 13 Chinese ministries ratified the Measures of Cybersecurity Review this February. Before the new measures were enacted, CAC had conducted additional scrutiny of the country’s approval process for Chinese enterprises listing in overseas capital markets. Foreign-listed companies with massive personal data collection, such as ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and online recruiting platform Boss Zhipin [BZ:US], have faced increased regulatory pressure due to concerns about data security.