WeBank Favours Distributed Data Transfer Protocols for Achieving Right to Data Portability


Tencent-backed digital private bank WeBank has highlighted the potential for distributed data transfer protocols (DDTP) to fulfil the requirements of China’s new legislation on the protection of personal data rights.

China is currently stepping up its regulation and scrutiny of big data and personal data security, with 1 November marking the official launch of the country’s “Personal Information Protection Law” (个人信息保护法).

The new law contains provisions on the right to personal data portability, stipulating that individuals have the right to obtain copies of personal information from data controllers, as well as request that data controllers directly transfer them their personal information to other entities.

Ma Zhitao (马智涛), WeBank chief technical officer, said to state-owned media that achieving right to data portability involves major challenges, including reliable transmission, secure storage and coordinated production, as well as maximising the choice and control of individual users.

Ma favours DDTP as a means of resolving these issues, which he says can provide individuals with full guidance and control, while at the same time conferring the advantages of a blockchain-based solution which include full process traceability, trust, security and being tamper-proof.

“DDTP can break through certain limitations of the traditional model,” said Ma to National Business Daily. “For example, this model does not require the advance agreements of participating institutions, and also does not involve dependence upon a single, authoritative institute to drive things.”

“Users can actively guide and make decisions themselves, and it is extremely flexible. Data transmission is also faster.”

WeBank has joined with Guantao Law firm (观韬中茂律师事务所) and other fintech advocates in China to push for greater use of DDTP via the Financial Services Blockchain Consortium (Shenzhen) (FISCO).

“We hope that they can become general use agreements, enabling providers with large volumes of data as well as data receivers with a large number of application scenarios to implement data transmission with the authorisation of users themselves,” said Ma.

In 2020 China began to apply DDTP core mechanisms in the Greater Bay Area, with the launch of the “Guangdong Macau Health Code Cross-border Mutual Recognition Project” (粤澳健康码跨境互认项目).

The project enables users to become “cores” for the transmission of personal data via the use of onchain digital certificates, permitting the more convenient verification of personal health information during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 2021 the project had supported over 95 million personal crossings between Guangdong and Macau.

Ma said the initiative proves that DDTP is feasible for personal health information, and that the technologies and data infrastructure it employs can be used to create a general use data portability model that is more broadly applicable to cross-border, cross-enterprise integrated data solutions.