Baidu's Robin Li Says Chinese Are Willing to Sacrifice Privacy for Efficiency
Tang Shihua
/SOURCE : Yicai
Baidu's Robin Li Says Chinese Are Willing to Sacrifice Privacy for Efficiency

(Yicai Global) March 27 -- Baidu Inc. founder Robin Li said the owner of China's dominant online search engine will attend more to privacy issues, but noted that Chinese people are still relatively easygoing on the issue

"If [loss of] privacy buys convenience or efficiency, in many cases, they are willing to [lose] it," state-backed new outlet The Paper quoted Li as saying yesterday at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing. Chinese are relatively open and less sensitive to privacy issues than other nationals, he added.

Li made his comments on the same day that the US Federal Trade Commission announced an investigation into Facebook's privacy practices in the wake of a scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. It is claimed that the London-based data firm obtained information from 50 million Facebook users, which may then have been used in Donald Trump's presidential election campaign. Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg was forced to issue an apology.

About half of China's 1.4 billion citizens are connected to the internet, conveniently accessing services that range from food deliveries to financial products and their every keystroke leaves a data trail. A new Cybersecurity Law came into force last June to tighten up such areas as privacy of personal information and the Chinese government is continuing to reinforce the development of laws and regulations covering privacy.

Internet data accounts for just 20 percent of the total, with the rest in company hands, Li said. Baidu will follow a series of principles that "make the use of data beneficial to data owners and make them willing to grant the right to use it," Li said. "If we can put more data together, the ability we achieve will increase exponentially."

Li believes technology is the most significant driving force. Beijing-based Baidu spends 15 percent of its turnover -- more than CNY10 billion (USD1.6 billion) -- on research and development each year and will continue to raise this amount, which is crucial in the era of artificial intelligence, Li said.

Apart from R&D spending, recruiting the right people is also vital. "We recognize that talent is important, and its cost is high, but we're willing to spend the money and pay more to find the right persons," he said.

Between March 30 and April 27, Baidu will be recruiting at prestigious US colleges including the University of California, Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. It is mainly looking for talent in the AI field.

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Keywords: Baidu , Big Data , Privacy Awareness